The journey of a paediatric patient with Child Life Therapy (CLT) at Gold Coast University Hospital- a case study

Mrs Phillipa Cordner1,2,3,4, Mrs Mary Scannell1,2,3,4

1Gold Coast Hospital And Health Service, Gold Coast, Australia, 2Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, 3Children’s Hospital Foundation,  4Greater Charitable Foundation,

Background: Ben* was booked for a dental procedure under general anaesthetic due to sensory preferences and behaviours limiting his participation in an examination in the dental clinic environment. Ben and his family were identified by the Child Life Therapist during preadmission screening, and prioritised for support prior to and throughout his day surgery admission.

Method: The Child Life Therapist liaised with nursing and anaesthetic staff to support a delayed presentation to the hospital, as preadmission screening had identified that wait periods, unfamiliar environments and unfamiliar routines increased Ben’s anxiety, usually resulting in self harming and physical aggression towards others. The CLT  conducted assessment to determine Ben’s sensory preferences, behaviours and usual leisure and play occupations prior to admission, and utilised this information to set up the environment prior to Ben’s arrival to support his sensory preferences and minimise harm in the environment.

CLT liaised with medical and nursing staff regarding Ben’s sensory preferences, behaviours and leisure occupations, co-ordinating a multidisciplinary approach to facilitating Ben’s care. This including adaptation to usual preadmission routines and environments to support Ben, use of therapeutic distraction and strategies during wait periods and transitions and supporting Ben’s parents throughout admission and recovery.

Results: Ben was able to remain in the waitroom and transition to the anaesthetic bay prior to theatre without the use of sedative medication, utilising therapeutic intervention to support Ben’s sensory preferences and behaviours within an unfamiliar medical environment and routine.  His mother reported that the experience was much better than she had anticipated, and staff reported that without the Child Life Therapy input there would have been a lower threshold for use of a sedative medication to support admission.

Discussion: The collaboration between Ben, his family, CLT, nursing and anaesthetic staff was integral to the co-ordination of safe, child and family centred care.

*Name changed for confidentiality


Phillipa Cordner graduated from James Cook University with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Hons I) in 2010. She currently works in paediatrics at the Gold Coast University Hospital in the Child Life Therapy program and a multidisciplinary feeding clinic.

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