• Children's Center

    In the Loop: Furry friends and fun take fear out of the hospital

It may look like Amy K. Olson's job is all fun and games. Her 9-to-5 routine includes activities like playing bingo, bandaging dolls and leading crazy "crafternoons." But for Olson, a child life specialist at Mayo Clinic Children's Center, all that play has a serious purpose. "Our job in child life is to provide education to kids and their families and to help kids cope with what's happening to them," Olson says. The goal, she tells us, is "for kids not to be scared of the hospital."

That's a tall order. After all, medical tests and procedures can be frightening even for adults. For children, the medical equipment, processes and staff often represent a new world they don't understand. A big part of a child life specialist's job is to introduce children to that world. And one of the best ways to do that, Olson says, is "to normalize the medical environment through developmentally appropriate play." Which is why you'll often find her teaching her young charges how to give their dolls, teddy bears or other stuffed friends an X-ray or immunization. Or, how to prepare for surgery. Read the rest of the story.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.