Over the summer, the Child Life Specialist MS cohort had the incredible opportunity to travel to China to share the concepts of child life internationally and to interact with patients, families, and professionals from a different culture. Throughout the course of our time in China, we traveled to three different hospitals located in Hangzhou and Quzhou.
While at Children’s Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, we provided lectures on family-centered care and communication, introducing to nurses, physicians, and administrators the idea of One Voice for the very first time. One Voice is an approach used in children’s hospitals to teach health care providers how to create a less-threatening environment for children during a procedure. In addition to providing lectures for the staff, the child life students had the amazing opportunity to interact with patients and their families and to provide a teddy bear clinic. Teddy bear clinics assist hospitalized children in coping with their medical experiences by providing hands-on therapeutic play and education. This interactive experience was the catalyst for me to begin trying to learn simple phrases in this new language, such as "hello" and "have a good day," and how to introduce myself in order to show these families that I was there for them and their children.
One of my personal favorite experiences was at Quzhou Women and Children’s Hospital. We had the opportunity to be involved in a conference with the president, administrators, nurses, etc. from the hospital and to share our appreciation for allowing us to visit and teach them about child life. This education included a hands-on experience in which we provided therapeutic play for patients. We had syringe painting and medical play available for patients and their families so they could enjoy what child life has to offer. While overseeing the syringe painting activity, I noticed that many of the children stopped using the syringes to get messy and use their hands! A nurse who was also helping us oversee the activities came and told us that this was the first time that many of the children had seen or used paint before. I can’t explain the joy that I observed on these children’s faces, and I understood it because I felt the same joy for having the opportunity to show these children and families that being in the hospital does not have to be all scary!
Though initially nervous about the trip, I found myself able to remain in the moment and fully immerse myself in the culture. This spilled over to all areas of our trip: trying to communicate with others in the hospital, exploring the city, or even walking on the street. It was incredible to see the faces of those who I communicated with light up as I said a simple "hello." This experience in China pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow culturally, personally, and professionally. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have shared the principles of child life internationally with healthcare professionals, patients, and families. If given the opportunity, I would go back in a heartbeat.