Hello, It's Nice to Meet You – Caitlin Jackson, Child Life Specialist

This month we’re celebrating our Child Life Specialists.

Meet Child Life Specialist Caitlin. Caitlin specializes in supporting children and their families as the children prepare and recover from surgery or stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

How long have you been in Tucson, what brought you here?
I have lived in Tucson now for a little over a year and a half. I moved out here from Georgia for the job at TMC as I was a new graduate out of college at the time. When I moved out here was the first time I had ever been to Tucson.

What do you love about Tucson?
Tucson is such a beautiful place. I love that it seems as though the sun is always shining and I love how the mountains seem almost fake at times, like they are painted there. In Tucson there is rarely a day that you can’t go outside and do something, whether it is take a walk, hike, or just sit outside and enjoy the scenery.  It still amazes me how beautiful it is here.

What do you do for fun?
For fun, I can think of a couple things that I like to do. I love to travel, I just don’t get to go places as much as I would like. However I am content with day or weekend trips around the area, whether it is to Tombstone, Phoenix, Sedona, etc. I just like going new places and seeing new things. I also am learning/teaching myself how to sew. My mother is amazing at making different things from curtains to clothes. So I am trying to follow in her footsteps, however it is not as easy as it seems. I like to take on little projects to complete, one time I made a dog bed and the project I am working on now is a bag to carry groceries and such.

What do you love about your job?
It is hard to say just one thing that I love about my job. I love working in the OR and PICU, not only are the staff in those areas great but I feel as though they know how to effectively use Child Life. But mostly, I love the feeling that I get when I can make a child smile even when they face a stressful situation. I love when I have a day where I have what I like to call a “Child Life moment,” which is when I have an experience where I can see the effects of how I have helped someone and it solidifies the reasons why I came into this profession. I love being able to help not only just the patient, but the parents and siblings cope with the effects of hospitalization. I just love being there as a supportive figure who will help in whatever ways that I can.

What are three tips you would give to parents whose children are facing hospitalization?

1. Bring something from home, pjs, teddy bear or blanket. Something familiar.

2. Be honest. It’s okay to tell children what is happening. Lots of parents are afraid of a child’s reaction to finding out that they must have surgery, but expected stressors are better than an unexpected one. There is a balance between sharing feeling, ex. crying and grieve which can be helpful to a child and sharing anxiety before a surgery which may not help your child. If you need help finding that balance ask for help.

3. It’s still okay for your child to play even if they’re sick as long as they’re not exerting themselves too much. Play is a great way to give children control in a situation that may feel very out of control.

We asked Caitlin what she wanted people to know about Child Life Specialists. Caitlin explained that their extensive training allows child life specialists to address children and their families needs in an age appropriate, developmental-based manner. That while their work may look like just play, they are not babysitting and merely entertaining, but engaging in therapeutic activities that designed with purpose to support children and their families. When the child life specialists engage children in medicinal play, children can gain mastery and gain control helping them to understand the situation, which in turn helps the medical staff and the child’s healing process. 

See here for more posts about Child Life Specialists.