Five Question Friday: Sam Schackman

It’s Five Question Friday — our regular staff profile feature! We want to introduce you to Samantha Schackman, a child life specialist who has worked at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota since November 2011.

Your job title sounds so cool! What do you do as a child life specialist? As a child life specialist, my role is to help minimize the stress that children and teens might face in a health care situation. We strive to normalize the experience for children and families and make some of the hard stuff a little easier. Some of the techniques we use to help children and families cope and adjust to the medical experience include:

  • Preparing children for tests, procedures, and surgery using developmentally appropriate learning materials and language to decrease anxiety and clarify misconceptions
  • Helping children learn about their bodies/illness/injury and reasons for their health care experiences
  • Helping children learn and utilize coping strategies during procedures to reduce anxiety, help promote cooperation with the procedure, and decrease pain
  • Providing opportunities for play and activities to help children relax, learn about their environment, and to promote normalcy
  • Facilitating therapeutic and expressive activities for processing of medical experiences
  • The entire family is affected when a child faces a medical experience, so we work with siblings, parents and other family members to help them adjust, too

Sam Schackman, child life specialist

Why did you become a child life specialist? My niece spent some time at Children’s, and our family had the opportunity to work with a child life specialist in the Emergency Department. The child life specialist helped make some of the hard parts about the hospital a little easier for my niece, which made a huge difference for my family during that stressful time. I have always had a passion for kids and a desire to help people, so after my personal experience with a child life specialist and seeing what difference it made, I knew I had to pursue that same path.

What is your favorite memory from Children’s? It is hard to pick one favorite memory from Children’s, but one that stands out is when I helped a child make pranks to “scare” her nurses (her idea, I promise!).  As we worked together in the playroom, she was laughing and so excited to put her clay creation pranks to use. It was a great memory because I was reminded of the innocence and imagination of children, and how laughter can be such a great healer!

What do you think makes kids great? Kids are great for so many reasons, including their wonderful outlook on life, curiosity, imagination, creativity, innocence, and desire to be independent.  One of the most remarkable characteristics of kids is their resiliency.  From my time at Children’s, I have seen kids face difficulty that some adults might have trouble overcoming, and the kids do it with such courage.  Even in the face of adversity, kids just want to be kids, and that makes them great!

What is your favorite meal at Starz Cafe? That’s another hard question because Starz Cafe has so many great options! I love the wraps, salad bar, and baked potatoes.

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