Book Review: Surgery Day

I recently got the chance to check out Surgery Day by Julie Kaderabek and Laura Wolfe and I loved it! Using non-threatening language, Surgery Day walks children through the steps of their upcoming surgery. With developmentally appropriate language, Surgery Day describes the different medical equipment and experiences that will encounter in the hospital and gives children accurate information to prepare them for their surgery. Research shows that children cope better with new experiences if they are given the time and information to prepare for success. Surgery Day allows parents and caregivers to prepare their children for the new and often intimidating experience of surgery.

Visit 2 RNs to check out Surgery Day and learn more about the talented authors that created this book.



Fabulous Find Fridays: When Someone Very Special Dies

Last month I share with you a great journal for children who are coping with a loved one’s serious illness. Sometimes those loved ones die which means the child needs a different kind of support. One of my favorite bereavement resources for school age children is When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegaard. This book is also a journal that encourages children to reflect on their experience following a death. Through language and spaces to draw, children are accompanied in their grief journey.

Fabulous Find Fridays: Drums, Girls + Dangerous Pie

Drums, Girls + Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is a great resource for teen siblings who are trying to cope with a little brother or sister’s illness. Although the book is focused on a teen’s younger brother’s battle with cancer, the main character in the book goes through many of the stages of grief and coping while learning to navigate the hospital environment.

Steven doesn’t believe that his brother has cancer when Jeffrey is first diagnosed. He thinks that his little brother is being spoiled until Jeffrey starts losing his hair. Then Steven begins bargaining that he’ll behave better if his brother is cured. And finally Steven accepts Jeffrey’s cancer diagnosis and begins to learn more about the hospital environment that his brother is now a part of. While all of this is happening at home with his family, Steven is also going through typical middle school drama. This book is a great resource for any teens that are struggling with a loved ones diagnosis. It can serve as a reminder that they aren’t alone and the emotions they are feeling in response to this situation are normal.

Fabulous Find Fridays: When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness

It’s hard to find books for kids about illness, even harder to find age appropriate journals. When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness by Marge Heegard is a great journal for school age kids to use when they are processing and working on coping with a loved one’s diagnosis. It gives enough direction that you don’t need to be a therapist or a Child Life Specialist to guide a child in their journey through this book, but the book can be a great partner for Child Life Specialists during their support sessions for children. The books pages are filled with open spaces where a child is encouraged to express their feelings and thoughts about a special someone’s serious illness.


Fabulous Find Friday: Angry Octopus

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is Angry Octopus by Lori Lite. Angry Octopus is a guided imagery story that teaches children coping skills for when they are feeling really angry. As someone who isn’t very experienced with leading guided imagery, I like this book because all you have to do is read the story. I really enjoy reading out loud and this story was an easy way to lead children in relaxation techniques. The Octopus squeezes his muscles and relaxes them, takes deep breaths and becomes calmer throughout the story.

Adult Consults – Discussing a Diagnosis

In the Fall of 2017, I completed my internship at a Pediatric Unit within an Adult Hospital. Although the pediatric population was our primary focus, we also provided support to adults who were struggling to talk to kids about hospital issues. One of the main things we did was work with parents to explain a new diagnosis to their children. If the parent had just been diagnosed with cancer or needed an organ transplant, we would often meet with the families to talk more about what these changes would mean.

You could probably define our main job as translation. Parents know their children best so most of them knew what to say but they struggled with how to explain medical terms like cancer, chemo, etc. That’s where Child Life’s developmentally appropriate experience and knowledge of the medical environment was needed. We would chat with parents about their children and what they’re like and then suggest ways to define big and scary words like cancer.

We also provided affirmation. With many of the families that I met with, the parents knew what they wanted to say and how to do it but they were unsure if they were “doing it right.” When we explained to them that they know their child best and their desire to be honest with the children is most important, families calmed down. It was interesting to see how helpful it was for them to have someone else say, “Yes, you’re doing it right.”

Obviously there were so many resources we provided for the families. For the parents, we gave them Kathleen McCue’s book How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious IllnessThis book is an excellent resource that provided families with practical guidance for talking to children about illness and also death. Because it’s broken up into smaller categories, parents could focus on the area that they felt they needed help with and they didn’t have to read the whole book. Some general books that we provided families with for their children were When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness and A Terrible Thing Happened.

For the children, we would share diagnosis specific books for the families about whatever illness they were facing. There are so many books available for children about illness and the medical setting, but they aren’t easily found in your local library. As Child Life Specialists, we knew resources that were available and we could share them with the families.

Finally, I loved to give families Worry Eaters or give them instructions to make their own worry eater. What’s great about Worry Eaters is that it encourages kids to write down their questions and fears but they can share those thoughts when they feel ready or when the caregiver is ready. It often takes some pressure off both the parent and the child. There was one family that I met during my internship who I gave Worry Eaters to mom to give to her two school aged boys. For the rest of dad’s hospitalization, they carried those Worry Eaters with them wherever they went. We invited the boys to many hospital events that were happening for our pediatric patients, and they brought their Worry Eaters to every event.

Do you work in a setting where you help adults talk to kids about overwhelming topics? I’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below!

Fabulous Find Friday: Child Life Secrets Exam Study Guide

Earlier this week I took the Certification Exam and this book was by far the most helpful resource that I used to study. What’s great about this study guide is that it covers a wide variety of material ranging from ethics and professional practice to play and child development. The other thing that’s nice about this book is that not only is there a practice test with answers, but there are paragraph length explanations for why each answer is right/wrong. After reading the books on the Association’s assigned list, this is a great study guide to use in the month before you take the exam. I highly recommend it!

Fabulous Find Fridays: My First Look and Find Books

My top three distraction tools for young children are light spinners, bubbles and MY FIRST LOOK AND FIND BOOKS! There is so much to love about these books, but here are my top three reasons.

First, they come in two sizes. The small one are nice because they fit well in a distraction bag, but I prefer the larger books. They are 12 inches tall which makes them perfect for blocking children’s views of procedures. When it comes to sutures and IVs where the patient has received numbing medication, I prefer to block the procedure from the child’s view as I think it promotes positive coping for toddler and preschool age children.

Second, they are easy to do. During my internship, I worked with a two year old oncology patient who loved these books. After only a couple times of my showing her how to do the books, the patient was able to find the indicated items with no help. But older preschools also like them because there are many items to find which makes it seem more challenging for them.

Third, the books are based of popular children’s TV shows and there are many versions. This allows you to personalize care and also diversify your distraction tools for chronic patients that you see frequently.

Fabulous Find Friday: Digging Deep Journal

Digging Deep is a journal for seriously ill children, in particular for teens. Adolescents in the hospital struggle to be heard and struggle to cope with all the changes that are happening. While all ages need support to help them cope in the hospital environment, there are not a lot of resources available specifically for teens. I received a Digging Deep Journal at conference this year and I think it’s a great tool for teens. Writing therapy is well established as a way to increase positive coping. To learn more about the benefits of writing therapy, visit this article: Can Writing Therapy Help Troubled Teens?

The journal is available online and also in a hard copy.  Visit this page to read the journal online:

I would also encourage you to check out their entire site as Digging Deep not only provides the journal, but they are also creating a video game and offer evidence based research on their site.

I’d love to hear from you about how you support teens in the hospital. Have you used Digging Deep? How else can you support positive coping in teens?

Fabulous Find Friday: ACCO

ACCO stands for American Childhood Cancer Organization and they are our Fabulous Find today!

I learned about ACCO at the Child Life Conference this past summer. They not only work to create awareness about childhood cancer, encourage research and offer support, but they also provide education resources to parents/teacher/doctors and can provide resources for you!

To find their free educational resources, visit and scroll down to the section under Books for Parents. You will see “Professionals and Educators: Request a Desk Set of Our Informational Resources” This  desk set includes a medical play kit, books for patients and their families, general education books about cancer and more. I highly recommend you check out the ACCO!