A VCUG (Voiding Cystourethorgram) is done to see what happens in a child’s body when they go pee. Below are the steps of a VCUG;

  1. First the X-Ray tech will take pictures of their belly. These are called scouting pictures and they are done to that the doctor can make sure there’s nothing in their belly.
  2. Next the child will lay on the bed and girls will put their legs in frog position while boys can leave their legs straight.
  3. Once they are in position, the tech will clean their private parts with a special soap that sometimes looks like chocolate.
  4. After cleaning the area, the tech will insert a small straw (catheter) into where they go pee. This is done so that the tech can will up the bladder with sparkly highlighter water. This highlighter water is used to help the child’s bladder show up on the pictures.
  5. Once the straw is in, the staff will use a piece of tape to hold it into place and then fill up the bladder. Your child might feel as though they have to go pee but they need to hold it until the tech says it’s okay to go pee.
  6. The next step is the hardest, the child needs to pee on the table. The reason for this is that the goal of the VCUG is to get pictures of what happens when they go pee so they need to take x-ray pictures while the child is peeing.
  7. Once they have peed on the table and staff has taken the pictures then need, your child will be able to go the bathroom and then put their own clothes back on.

Children’s Mercy has YouTube videos going through the steps of the VCUG, check them out below.


Slow to Warm

Some patients are harder to connect with. Often they have the slow to warm temperament. During my time volunteering at a children’s hospital, one of the patients on my list was like this. The patient was a 12 y.o female and she was alone in the hospital so staff asked if I could bring some activities to her room. I grabbed connect four and a sand art project. We had sand art kits that were a mandala where you could remove the paper covering each section and add the sand. Below is a picture of these sand art kits, available from Oriental Trading.


When I went into this patient’s room and introduced myself, she responded very quietly. I could tell that she was shy. I showed her the sand art, but she didn’t make any motion to take it. I was always taught to let the kids do the project instead of doing it for them, but this particular patient didn’t seem to want to do the project. So I showed her how we remove the smaller piece of paper and then asked what color sand she would like to use. After she chose the sand, I demonstrated how we pour it on the project and it will stick to the part where we removed the paper. I then asked her to choose which section we should remove paper from next and she selected a small area. I removed that paper and encouraged her to pour the sand of choice on the section. We continued in these baby steps until eventually the patient was doing the project herself.

As I was guiding the patient, my goal was for her to do the project alone. When I left, I wanted her to continue to work on it so she wouldn’t be bored. I knew that I couldn’t do the whole project with her, she needed to take control. But because she was slow to warm, I had to be patient while she grew comfortable with me and comfortable doing the project herself. By the time I left, we had also played connect four and she had even smiled. This experience reminded me the importance of patience. As Child Life Specialists, and as student volunteers, our role is to provide a safe place for patients to grow and explore. Because this patient knew I would encourage and support her, not criticize if she didn’t do the craft right, she became comfortable enough to chat with me and enjoyed our time together.

Fabulous Find Friday: Comfort Kits

Guidepost Comfort Kits are created to brighten the lives of children who are hospitalized or undergoing medical treatments. The comfort kits include items that will help make the child’s stay a little easier. They have a stuffed toy, stress ball, stickers and a journal to remember each child’s unique situation. To learn more, check out this child life specialist’s post about the impact these kits can have for a hospitalized family: Bringing Comfort to Sick Kids



Fabulous Find Friday: “How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness.”

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is a book recommendation, How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue.

This is a great guide for parents who want to talk to their children, but it can also educate other professionals in the field who might encounter parents that are dying or their children. McCue offers practical advice for talking to children about a diagnosis and also how to support them through a loss. The book is divided into specific sections that are geared toward answering a particular question or focusing on a specific population. This allows the parent to go straight to the part of the book that might be most applicable to their situation. McCue not only draws on her years of experience from working with families that are undergoing loss, but she also includes real examples of families who have had similar experiences.


How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as an Ebook through Google Books.

“The aim is for your children to build a whole new repertoire of responses – safe, healthy ways of coping with the wrenching, abnormal situation of a parent’s grave illness. Whatever transpires now for you, the parents, you want your children to emerge whole, fulfilled, and ready for the rest of their lives.”

– Kathleen McCue


Don’t Give Up!

This week I accepted a Fall Child Life Internship! I’m so excited for what this next chapter of my Child Life journey is going to bring.

I could use this blog post to tell you all about how excited I am, how relieved that the internship application process is over or about my plans for next semester. All of this is happening, but instead I want to speak to those who did not get an internship offer.

If you don’t get an internship, don’t give up! If you truly are passionate about Child Life and want to become a Certified Child Life Specialist, then you will. It might just take a little longer than you expected. Child Life is very competitive. Some hospitals will receive over 75 applicants for their one internship position. So if you did not get an internship this semester, it means that you have time to expand your horizons and build your resume to make yourself more competitive next time.

If you looking for something to add to your experience, think about populations that you haven’t worked with yet. Maybe you have a lot of time spent with oncology patients, but you haven’t worked very many other diagnoses. Or you’ve worked with healthy kids, but don’t have much experience with children with special needs. A wide variety of experiences will give you many skills that can be used when working with kids as a Child Life Specialist. If you’re looking for something new, check out my list for getting volunteer experience. Let me know if you have other ideas that I can add to the list!

“No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them.” – Maeve Greyson

Fabulous Find Friday: Sara’s Smiles Foundation

Today’s spotlight is on the Sara’s Smiles Foundation. They are an organization that put together kits for children who are fighting cancer. Their inspiration kit includes the following:

  • A file for important papers
  • A form letter to notify and reach out to friends, family and community
  • A tote bag to carry items throughout the hospital
  • Reusable Sticker Corners to display photos, artwork, etc. on walls
  • A door hanger and washable markers to personalize one’s room
  • A squeeze toy for stress release
  • An art pad for self-expression
  • A “Picture Me Proud” Card to share milestones and/or special accomplishments
  • Small Toys for amusement and distraction
  • A “Follow Us” Card to share pictures and stories with Sara’s Smiles

Visit their site to learn more about resources for kids with Cancer and to order kits:


Fabulous Find Friday: Marshmallow Launchers

This Friday’s Fabulous Find is Marshmallow Launchers. I learned about these at the National Child Life Conference this summer and they are easy to use and super helpful. It is basically a recorder like tool, without the holes, that can be filled with small marshmallows. Through deep breathes, these marshmallows can be shot out to targets. Visit Kelsey Kids to learn more about it!

Their site also includes a section with “Helpful Advice from a Child Life Specialist.” Check out what they have to say:

Benefits of Marshmallow Launcher play:

  • It increases ambulation (as a child moves about the room to pick up marshmallows and gets in and out of bed).
  • It improves respiratory status from pleasurable activity, additional benefit from sucking marshmallow back into tube before exhaling to launch marshmallow.
  • Provides normalization of environment through play.
  • Shows decreased flat effect when pelting a nurse with a marshmallow.
  • Provides aggression release.

Patients that would benefit from Marshmallow Launcher play include:

  • Any patient able to exhale forced air, usually over 5 years old.
  • Any patient spending excessive time in bed due to surgery, chest tubes, pneumonia, or treatment, burns, etc.
  • Any patient who needs an outlet during or after a painful procedure- for example, Marshmallow Launcher play can be used during dressing changes.
  • Any patient needing to release aggression or feelings. (You can encourage patients to create targets that display the objects of their fear, anger, or frustration.)



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!


Julia is coming to Sesame Street

Meet Julia! Julia has autism and she is the newest Muppet on Sesame Street.

Julia was introduced to better prepare children when they meet playmates and friends who have autism. In March 2014, it was believed that about 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder. By bringing Julia to Sesame Street, the writers aren’t teaching children everything there is to learn about autism but they are exposing children to a Muppet with autism. As Child Life Specialists, we know the importance of preparation and education. What a great form of preparation for children preparing to enter school, or even any environment in which they will meet other children. 60 Minutes has a great article about Julia and the show which you can find here.

Sesame Street is a great show for kids. What are some of you favorite kids shows and why?


Fabulous Find Friday: Project Sunshine

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is Project Sunshine. I learned about this group at the National Child Life Conference back in May.

Project Sunshine is a nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children facing medical challenges and their families.

Project Sunshine empowers a dynamic and dedicated corps of over 15,000 volunteers to bring programming – recreational (arts), educational (tutoring and mentoring) and social service (HIV and nutritional counseling) – to 100,000 children facing medical challenges and their families in 175 cities across the United States and in four international locations: Canada, China, Israel and Kenya.

Volunteers selflessly donate their time to create program materials and deliver programs. Working onsite, our volunteers relieve the anxiety of the young patients and in a context of fun and play, foster in them the courage and coping skills necessary to confront procedures that lie ahead.

Project Sunshine volunteers spread sunshine, restoring a crucial sense of normalcy to the pediatric healthcare environment.

Project Sunshine has a bunch of volunteer opportunities for both students and also community members. So be sure to check out their website: