F is for Feelings – from fear to resiliency – resource

It can be hard for a teenager when her peers move from the excitement of “can I sign your cast” to “it’s really going to hurt when they take it off”?


Fresh out of a visit to hospital with my daughter yesterday, I’m reminded of the importance of feelings. It seems all too obvious, that a trip to hospital will result in feelings of anxiety and fear.

Photo from: http://www.clipartpanda.com

Yet my thirteen year old had shown stoicism from the outset of breaking her arm. She picked herself up and trudged across the sporting field asking for her water bottle. Meanwhile I hastened to keep up, asking her to slow down. Over the weeks she coped with waits at two hospital emergency departments, an adult’s hospital and a children’s hospital, then repeated waiting at orthopaedic and x-ray clinic queues. She had it down pat and knew where to go and what to do, seeing herself as one of the many other children waiting for treatment.
There were certainly challenges along the way, worst being no food or drink and for me watching the pain under gas as her arm was manipulated and put back into shape. Once again I had to hasten to keep up as she jumped up after the procedure to head off to make an appointment at the orthopaedic clinic. The only sign of something being wrong was the cast from wrist and over bent elbow.
Later that night the pain and challenge of sleeping with a heavy bent elbow came. This was followed by challenges of dressing, washing, undertaking school work with her weak arm and carrying a heavy  bag which included books and a laptop. Transport on the bus with kids pushing and pulling also led to pain and concern. Despite all this she managed to walk, run and dance her way through the weeks.

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So where in all this resiliency do fearful feelings occur? It can be hard for a teenager when her peers move from the excitement of “can I sign your cast” to “it’s really going to hurt when they take it off” and so the stories begin.
I wasn’t prepared for my daughter’s sleepless night that preceded the day when the cast came off or for the impact of some of the “kid-fabricated” stories.  As we waited one last time in the waiting room she was distracted by the funny things around her, a parent talking to their young child about what was on TV, “look there’s a penguin with a rainbow coloured beak”, no it’s a puffin she thought! Just when things weren’t looking good she was called up. One boy had cheered earlier when his name was called, adults chuckled, a moment of relief.

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What made the difference to my daughter’s trepidation were the explanations health professionals gave. Speaking to her and demonstrating the procedure of having the cast taken off made all the difference. Phrases like “what you can expect”, “what you might expect” were really helpful. She even smiled as the cast came off. She was glad her arm was not green.

Being “armed” with information makes all the difference. The first test of this was as she reluctantly passed by the swings on our way to the car. It was great to know that she understood and can resist the temptation to hop on a swing, bike or other moving object.
How can books and resources help?
As parents, we won’t always know what our children are feeling. The AWCH library holds books to help adolescents and children understand what they are feeling. There are books written to help children identify and manage how they are feeling so they can develop self-esteem and coping skills.
 A book to help adolescents is the Stress reduction workbook for teens: mindfulness skills to help you deal with stress. Teenagers can use this easy to read workbook with activities to develop an understanding of what stress is and how to live in the present moment, “mindfulness”. They will gain a sense of control over stressful situations and develop resilience.
There are books too for school children such as Relax, which teaches relaxation techniques or Be the boss of your stress : self-care for kids and Be the boss of your pain: self-care for kids.  
Nowadays there are plenty of online resources to help children and families prepare for hospital experiences, an example for young children is the child-friendly free app Okee in medical imaging. This fun app will help young children learn all about medical imaging and feel relaxed and supported.
Help! My Child’s in Hospital has practical advice for parents on preparing their child for hospital. Visit the website to find out about other families experiences.
Everybody stay calm: how to support your young child through medical tests and procedures will also help families prepare. These books will help parents with practical skills to support their children through stressful times, so they gain confidence and better health.
So I invite you to borrow a book and be well prepared for that next encounter with the doctor, dentist or hospital.


Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
April 2015


E – Early days of play for children in hospital – resource

Recently, I dipped back into the 1970s archives and looked at early work on play for children in hospital. Information unearthed was about the importance of play, the role of play workers/leaders and why play workers needed to be established as a paid profession as well as allocation of space for play.  Silvia Nash outlined a 1970s view of the role of play workers who have a primary concern for the emotional needs and development of the child. The play worker helps and encourages parents and families to support and participate in the care of their child acting as a buffer. Play workers explain treatments to children to fit their understanding and support nursing and medical staff. In the UK, the National Association of Hospital Play Staff has documented milestones celebrating 50 years of work.

In Canada and North America child life programs were designed to meet the social, emotional and physical activity needs of children in hospital and to help children and their parents adjust and cope with illness. Hospitalized children need the continuing presence of someone important to them, as well as a rich and stimulating environment and opportunities for exploratory behaviour and play. The Child Life Council has produced a timeline and history of the profession.

In 1976 AWCH held a seminar Play in Hospital, a first in Australia. AWCH was instrumental in bringing together a wide range of people, making recommendations for unified guidelines and including roles and training. AWCH went on to write a Policy relating to the provision of play for children in hospitals in 1986.

A new beginning for the profession in Australia took place in 2015. The evolution of the hospital play profession in Australia was celebrated during Child Life Therapy week including the launch of a new name and website. Look to the Association of Child Life Therapists Australia as the peak body of health care professionals specialising in child development, who utilize their knowledge and skills to work with children in the hospital…. ACLTA has produced a short history of hospital play in Australia.


Early days and resources at the AWCH Child Health Library

AWCH Child Health Library holds foundational resources including:

Important resources that identify the needs of children in hospital

Recent resources available for loan include:

Related resources can be borrowed on preparation for hospital, relaxation, mindfulness, coping with grief and living with serious illness.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
May 2015

Maisy goes to hospital – review

By Lucy Cousins
Walker books, 2007. A Maisy first experiences book. ISBN 9781406313260

Maisy felt strange to be away from home and missed her friends

If you and your pre-schooler love Maisy this delightful book will not disappoint with the usual bright, cheery illustrations and thoughtful words, both by Lucy Cousins.
The book even has glittery lettering on the cover, pretty! 
It’s not hard to see why Maisy is such a popular mouse. Maisy goes to hospital has a gentle sense of humour typical of Maisy books. It is one in the series: A Maisy first experiences book, designed to introduce young children to unfamiliar experiences.
Pre-school children will enjoy the mostly happy expressions and comforting touches. Maisy has her favourite Panda bear with her, also wearing fancy pyjamas and smiling when Maisy feels so strange. Nurse Comfort is close at hand and friendship with Dotty helps make the experience so much more normal. Balloons and flowers and visiting friends help readers think about a warm, friendly hospital environment, Maisy is no longer  fearful.
Cousins helps children learn about hospital through the familiarity of Maisy.
Maisy goes to hospital along with other books preparing children for hospital, are available for loan from the AWCH Library. To find out more about Maisy’s experience in hospital visit the AWCH library at: http://library.awch.org.au/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=12355
Jillian Rattray
Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare (AWCH)

Therapeutic activities for children and teens coping with health issues

Therapeutic activities for children and teens coping with health issues
By Robyn Hart and Judy Rollins.
John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2011, 379 p. ISBN 9780470555002.
Bibliography, pp  339-364. Includes CD-ROM.

“Therapeutic activities for children and teens coping with health issues” is a book richly filled with activities to assist health professionals, child life therapists, counsellors and social workers in their work with families. Activities and related information promote adaptation and coping for children, adolescents and their families in hospital or living with health issues. It is great to see so many ideas presented in an easily readable format, with over 200 practical activities to choose from.

Chapters focus on promoting understanding and coping for adolescents and children through different aspects of their healthcare experiences. Topics of the 16 chapters include separation and anxiety, self expression, socialization and help with many aspects of coping with illness. Set out in a clear way, each topic covers an overview, special considerations and coping interventions. The theoretical framework behind each topic is outlined. Activities are set out using an easy-to-read table which includes: therapeutic goals, age group, adult/child ratio, required time, restrictions and precautions and materials. You will also find an extensive bibliography (pp  339-364) as well as black and white illustrations and photographs. The accompanying CD has activity sheets and templates that can be customised.

With a great mix of theory and hands on, this book is sure to be a helpful reference tool and provide both information and inspiration. In fact I think I’ll gather up my supplies and try my hand at making a volcano.

About the authors
Robyn Hart, director of Child Life at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Judy Rollins, coordinator of the Studio G Artist in Residence Program at Georgetown University Hospital and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. This is the second  book they have worked together on, the previous award winning book is entitled, Therapeutic play activities for hospitalized children.

Keywords: Activities; Adaptation, psychology; Adolescent psychology; Bereavement; Body image; Child life; Child, hospitalised; Child psychology; Culture; Death; Families; Group work; Hospitalization; Medical art; Medical equipment; Mental health; Pain; Patients; Play therapy; Self-esteem; Self-expression; Therapeutic activities; Therapy

Winner of the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year 2011
(Category: Maternal And Child Health)

Other titles also by Judy Rollins available for loan from the AWCH collection:
Meeting children’s psychosocial needs: across the health-care continuum / Judy A. Rollins, Rosemary Bolig and Carmel C. Mahan. Austin, Texas: Pro-ed, 2005. xv, 551 p.: Includes bibliographical references and index. Call number: 618.92 ROL 1
Core curriculum for the nursing care of children and their families / Marion E. Broome, Judy A. Rollins, Editors. Pitman, New Jersey: Jannetti Publications Inc., 1999. Call number: 610.7362 BRO 2

Review By:
Jillian Rattray
AWCH Librarian
March, 2013