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Plain Clothes, Special Care At Children’s Hospital

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This week we’re taking a look at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital and all of the things that make it stand out.

Hospital visits for kids are most likely not a welcomed thing, but there are people on staff dedicated to making their stay easier to do and understand.

Sarah Wiebler and Aimee Nelson work with patients at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, but you’ll notice they aren’t dressed in blue scrubs or a white coat. That is by design.

“A lot of kids, especially the younger kids in preschool age or early school age, have kind of learned to fear those big white coats, those scrubs, the doctors in the masks, because they know that sometimes means scary things happen to them,” Wiebler said. “For us to come in with normal clothes, they don’t really know right away who we are, and that gives us the chance to introduce ourselves in a normal situation and gain their trust that way.”

They are child family life specialists, an integral part of the caregiving teams at Children’s Hospital.

“My job is to make sure that kids understand what’s going on with their bodies while they are at the hospital, whether it’s procedures that they’re going to have or just why they have to be in the hospital,” Nelson said.

One of their patients, Sahar, has been in and out of the hospital for nearly two years, and it’s the presence of people like Nelson making those stays not only more tolerable, but more understandable.

“One way we help them cope with their experiences is by doing medical play with them. We take out the medical supplies they might experiencing or seeing while they’re here and just let them play. We’ll take out a stuffed animal and just let them start an IV on a teddy bear,” Nelson said.

The child family life specialists also work closely with the moms, dads, brothers and sisters — the ones who are often forgotten about during medical stays.

“As a parent, if you have a child who is sick with any kind of illness and you are in this scary, new environment, it can be really hard. It can be really challenging. To have somebody that comes in and introduces themselves as a supportive part of the team for the kids and family, I think that piece alone gives them the assurance that they are a part of my kid’s team that is there to help them feel more comfortable and safe in this new place,” Wiebler said.

That’s the goal: trust and understanding. To do the job takes emotional stamina, but it’s the positive payoff that’s most fulfilling.

“Having that sick kid smile and laugh and giggle again. And then watching parents kind of light up because of that moment — they haven’t seen their kid be their child in a few days — that’s a cool moment,” Wiebler said.

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