While we at Praxis have a wealth of experience recruiting for pediatric clinical trials, we don’t have the opportunity to interact directly with pediatric patients. That said, we continually look for ways to better understand patients so that we can best support their experience enrolling in and completing a clinical trial. For this post, we interviewed Caitlin Bramble, a child life specialist (CLS), so that we can learn – and then share – some best practices for working with children in healthcare.
Q: First and foremost, what does your job as a child life specialist entail?
A: My primary responsibility is helping pediatric patients and their families cope throughout their hospital experience. This means developing pediatric-friendly policies within the hospital, managing pediatric schedules, and assisting with the creation of care plans for each patient to reduce trauma and pain. I also play a role in patients’ re-entry into the community/school after discharge.
Q: How might a CLS support a clinical trial?
A: I sit with patients and their families during the informed consent discussion to make sure the trial is explained in language that is developmentally appropriate for the child. In addition, I work with parents to develop questions to ask or points to clarify with the study doctor.
I also help prepare patients for visits by meeting with the family before the study doctor or nurse enters the room so I can to explain what will happen during the appointment, sometimes using dolls or other tools to demonstrate a procedure. We might “practice” what the child will experience – for example, exposing a child to what it feels like to have their arm cleaned before a blood draw, or practicing putting on a tourniquet. Not only does this help make visits more efficient for the study doctor or nurse, but it also helps the child feel more comfortable and in control of their treatment, which is very important.
Q: What are your top three considerations when working with children in a hospital/medical setting?
A: First and foremost, speak to the child – and do so in a way that they can understand. Make sure the child feels comfortable enough to ask questions.
Second, show as much as you can – children understand better when they can see and feel something. So while verbally explaining what’s happening to a child can go a long way, having them interact and understand using their other senses can be even more impactful.
Finally, support parents as they support their child – this can be just as critical as interacting with the pediatric patient directly. Children often pick up on their parent’s emotions. Putting parents at ease by arming them with information is essential to the success of a child’s treatment journey.
Check out some of Praxis’ previous work for pediatric patient populations to see how we can help with your next recruitment and retention campaign.