Child life therapist helps kids manage anxiety in hospital

Child Life Therapist Meenu Wadhwa

Child Life Therapist Meenu Wadhwa

Playing, breathing exercises, and breaking down complex health information are all part of the job for The Prince Charles Hospital’s child life therapist, Meenu Wadhwa.

Meenu’s role is to minimise the stress, fear and anxiety hospitalised children might experience and improve their coping strategies, which not only benefit young patients and their families, but also their treating teams.

“The hospital environment is quite unfamiliar to children,” Meenu said.

“When they come here, they don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen, and so they have that fear of the unknown.”

Meenu also helps to prepare children for medical procedures by explaining the process in an age-appropriate way. This helps to reduce the fear of the unknown and clarify misconceptions they may have.

Meenu uses play-based activities, positive distraction and controlled breathing techniques to help ease the worries of some of the hospital’s littlest patients and improve their ability to manage pain, reducing their need for sedation.

“Sometimes, if they’ve had a traumatic experience in the past, that raises their anxiety,” she said.

“If they are too anxious, their ability to process information goes away – so the first step is to reduce that stress and anxiety and then prove information appropriate for their developmental level.”

Now a permanent role, the child life therapist position was originally introduced as a trial in July 2022 in the TPCH emergency department. It was funded by The Common Good and Curing Homesickness through the sales of Coles Mum’s Sause.

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