Children’s of Alabama is in the business of changing lives for the children who inhabit their colorful hospital rooms. From nurses who know their patients’ favorite colors and superheroes to care teams dedicated to making games out of treatments to keep the scaries at bay, there is a collaborative, compassionate spirit that swells within the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children, where Children’s is headquartered.
According to Honey Cook, Child Life Specialist Supervisor at Children’s, every single day on the job is memorable. “Someone on the care team will come up with an idea to help make a patient’s day better, and then everyone comes together to make it happen,” she says. “Every single department gets involved – it takes a ton of different perspectives and different kinds of creativity to make sure our kids have the best possible experience here. It’s so special how our team puts in plenty of creative energy to do something like bringing Batman to a patient’s birthday party.”
Every October is Superhero Month at Children’s. Working at Children’s means not only engaging with superhero patients and crusader care teams, but also being a champion of and for the children served. Here are just a few of the ways Children’s celebrates its heroic patients:
1) Superhero Window Washers
At the beginning of October, patients at Children’s are treated to a special surprise: Batman, Superman and Captain America rappelling down the side of Benjamin Russell Hospital. For the last five years, Books-a-Million and Children’s have teamed up to bolster the “Heroes Heal Here” campaign honoring brave patients, their families and hospital staff. “The notion of ‘Heroes Heal Here’ is representative of our patients, our heroes who are healing here at Children’s, and our staff, the heroes who help these children heal,” says Cook.
2) Teddy Bear Clinics
Regularly held Teddy Bear Clinics are hosted at Children’s to help ease the fears young patients may have about their own treatments. This month, in keeping with the overall superhero theme, teddy bears were dressed up in masks and capes to receive breathing treatments or have real plaster casts put on. “Having an entire department [child life specialists] dedicated to figuring out ways to incorporate play into these kids’ treatments to make everything a little less scary for them has really been a way for us to set ourselves apart here,” says Cook. “Special events like the Teddy Bear Clinics create a new way for these kids to understand their own treatments. They get to be brave for their teddy bears, which really empowers them and gives them a different perspective. The staff always has so much fun with this, too.It’s just a super cool way for us to come together to do something unique for our patients.”
3) Life-size Candy Land Game
In March, as spring starts to extend the days and the flowers begin to bloom outside, the team at Children’s creates a magical season all its own within the hospital. Thanks to participation from the Woodworkers Guild of America and the hospital’s Facilities Department, areas of Benjamin Russell are transformed into a life-size Candy Land game complete with giant lollipops, candy canes and even multicolored squares on the floor to follow from start to finish. To play, patients spin a huge spinner to win a prize. Each prize is therapeutic in nature, furthering the sense that Children’s just gets children. Prizes include bubbles for deep breathing, notebooks where the child is encouraged to write down questions to ask his or her doctor, stress balls and even stuffed animals perfect for cuddling with during treatment.
“Special events like life-size Candy Land are specifically designed to help these kids forget their anxieties and fears. It’s essentially 45 minutes of therapy for them that doesn’t feel like treatment—it just feels like they’re having fun. Our nurses are so integral in all of this because they’re the ones that really help the kids make their way through Candy Land, and it truly seems like they enjoy it as much as the children do,” explains Cook.
Children’s goes above and beyond
Beyond the Teddy Bear Clinics and Candy Land floor clings, there is an everyday above-and-beyond approach taken by every member of the care team at Children’s. “Sometimes it’s a nurse remembering that a child loves Superman, and when the child is having trouble swallowing, the nurse makes sure to provide a Superman cup to make the process a little easier. Sometimes it’s a nurse painting a little girl’s fingernails her favorite color. Sometimes it’s a care team member being a great listener. There are so many different things that happen daily around here that make me so proud to be part of the team at Children’s,” says Cook. “No matter how big or small the gesture is, every single person at Children’s is working together toward helping these children heal.”
If you want to change a child’s life, consider joining the incredible team at Children’s of Alabama. Click here for the opportunity to become a Children’s of Alabama superhero today.