Child Life: Training for Best Care

Thursday October 20, 2011 | Abby White, WE C Hope CEO.

Our Child Life Leaders gathered in Eldoret between Monday 29 August and Friday 2 September for the 3rd annual intensive training session.  As always, we were hosted by the Sally Test Paediatric Centre (STPC) at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), which provides expert retinoblastoma care to children in western Kenya.

Our child life leaders care for children across Kenya.  They have already become Certified Infant Massage Instructors and developed valuable skills in procedure preparation, medical play, distraction play and helping children manage pain.

The training was led by Certified Child Life Specialist, Morgan Livingstone. Sessions included both lectures and hands on training.

During the first day, the trainees developed skills to support children receiving palliative care, and their families.  Palliative care for children is especially important in Africa, where many children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma and other cancers too late for curative treatment.  Family support programs are minimal in Kenya, and the skills learned at this training are highly valued by the staff who care for dying children every day.

Tuesday’s training explored the many different dressing changes children experience during cancer treatment and other medical care.  These procedures are often very painful and distressing, but both emotional and physical distress can be managed well with medications and non-pharmacological supports.

Sessions examined the different types of pain management and developed skills for supporting children through dressing changes.  These interventions can be especially valuable for children with burns, who experience frequent, painful dressing changes.  Nurses from the Burns unit participated in the day’s training and benefited greatly from it.

Sally Test Paediatric Centre was closed on Wednesday, so all staff could attend a day-long child development program.  Morning sessions focused on developmental theories, age appropriate interventions and supports.  Afternoon sessions explored the impact of hospitalisation on children’s development.

The child development program was very well received by all participants, who are keen to expand their own knowledge and child care skills.  Toronto bookstore Parentbooks, enriched this session by donating a range of child development and curriculum text books for the STPC staff library.

Thursday focused on developing, conducting and evaluating child life research, and applying results to benefit children.

Celebrating a successful week of training in Eldoret.

Our five child life leaders join other delegates to celebrate with their trainer, Morgan Livingstone CCLS, and STPC Manager, Sarah Ellen Mamlin. The child life leaders are Moses Orwe (nurse from Homabay), Caroline Kemunto (paediatric nurse from Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi). Ruth Otieno (Matron of the paediatric ward at Coast Provincial Hospital, Mombasa), Salesa Abuga (community nurse from Kisumu), and Ernest K. Kirui (Director of the Sally Test Paediatric Centre, Eldoret).

The child life leaders also learned more about formal child life certification and preparation for that long term goal.  Kenya currently has no certified child life specialists in clinical practice, so our child life leaders are truly leaders in the development of child centres medical care.

Feedback from participants was very positive.  One attendee, Jane Kamau noted about how much she was learning “I realise now that I need to start with me to make change happen”.  All attendees are excited to be bringing child life skills to the children they care for.  Their knowledge, vision and dedication will enrich paediatric health care and children’s lives beyond measure.

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