What is in Melinda's Backpack?

“Dora and her backpack” is how the Child Life Specialists are lovingly referred to by some of the Ambulatory Surgery staff. And what a treasure trove of wonders that backpack and the Child Life Specialists are. Like a magician’s hat, the backpack seems almost bottomless. Melinda Rowe, Child Life Specialist, took time to share just what is in the backpack and how it serves to educate, entertain and distract when children come to TMC for Children for ambulatory surgery.

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Ambulatory surgery typically does not include an overnight stay at the hospital, but any surgery can still be daunting and downright scary for a child who may have never even been in a hospital before. The Child Life Specialists and Ambulatory Surgery staff work together to make child and family feel supported and to help the child feel some sense of control over what is happening to them. As Melinda begins to unpack the little Tomas the Turtle backpack it becomes clear just how much thought goes into supporting all pediatric patients. From toddler to teen, that backpack holds something for everyone, to educate, to empower, to comfort:

  • Surgery/Shadow Buddies provide an opportunity to practice medical play, and familiarize the child with some basic procedures. The Shadow Buddy can be a focal point for projection of emotions or a distraction as the child decorates. Best still, the Shadow Buddy can accompany the child into surgery – sometimes just that little bit of comfort can make the difference.
  • Toy doctor’s kit -Preschoolers or grade school children use the toy doctor’s kit in play to learn what is going to be happening and feel some empowerment.
  • Tubes, IV equipment etc – Older children use actual equipment in conjunction with their Shadow Buddy to gain some control and understanding over procedures and equipment.
  • Masks, like the masks the grade school and younger children will use to “sleep”, can be demonstrated on their own Tomas the Turtle or Shadow Buddy, and the child can choose the flavor of the gas.
  • Markers and stickers are used both in medical play and for distraction
  • The iPad is used to provide a quick virtual tour of the stages from intake, operating room, to surgery, and as a distractor, who doesn’t love an iPad?
  • Bubbles are a superb way to capture a young child’s attention
  • A pack of cards can help while away that time before surgery begins
  • Tomas the Turtle can be a comfort, a memento, and a model for medical play.
  • Buzzy Bee uses cold and vibration to reduce pain when IVs are placed
  • Camera for that all important pre-surgery shot.

Melinda packs it all back into the little backpack and, as she does, explains the procedures for maintaining infection control, because while it all seems so straight forward, each item must be wiped down and disinfected in between uses all but the Shadow Buddies and Tomas the Turtle or the stickers that go with the patient.

Melinda shares that it often helps the child if they visit TMC prior to the surgery. The tour takes only 10-15 minutes and is free. During the tour, both family and child are encouraged to ask questions. You can schedule a tour by calling 324-5370. You can also find more information about when to talk to your child about their upcoming surgery here, a step by step description of the general procedures you can read to your young child here, and a more general parent’s guide to ambulatory surgery here. 

Dora Melinda pulls her backpack on ready to empower, educate and comfort the next child who visits Ambulatory Surgery. Thank you Melinda.