Understanding your child's care team
- What is a pediatric cardiologist?
- What is a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon?
- What is a cardiac catheterization lab?
- What is a pediatric pain specialist?
- What is a child life specialist?
- Why a pediatric specialist?
Heart conditions in children are different from those in adults, and so pediatric cardiologists receive specific training. A pediatric cardiologist is a doctor who has completed training in pediatrics and also has received special training in the diagnosis and management of heart disease in fetuses, infants, children, young adults, and adults who were born with congenital heart disease.
Heart conditions in children are quite different from those in adults, and operating on children requires specialized skills and knowledge in children's unique physical and chemical make-up. A pediatric cardiovascular surgeon is a doctor who has completed extensive training in at least three specialty areas:
- Treating children, who are physiologically different from adults.
- Performing surgeries.
- Performing the specific cardiovascular surgeries necessary for children with heart problems.
Cardiac catheterizations are procedures in which tiny equipment is inserted into the body through a catheter (tube), which is usually inserted through a large blood vessel at the top of the thigh. Once inside, the physician performing the procedure guides the catheter to the heart, watching the process on a monitor. Some patients require catheterization as a diagnostic tool, often in preparation for surgery. More frequently, though, cardiac catheterization is used to correct a wide range of heart defects.
Team members in the cardiac catheterization lab also provide electrophysiology services, which help diagnose and treat disturbances in heart rhythms. During an electrophysiology study, a specially trained pediatric cardiac specialist will induce an arrhythmia--a disturbance in the electrical activity in the heart--in order to diagnose the source of the problem, evaluate the effectiveness of medicines being used to treat heart rhythm disorders, or assess the need for surgeries or other treatments. Sometimes, treatment can begin immediately while the patient is still in the cath lab.
Children's has the only cath lab in Minnesota designed for children. The technology and equipment in the lab was specifically selected for treating young patients, whose bodies vary much more than adults' bodies in size and weight and whose cardiac conditions manifest very differently than adults' do. The cath lab is built to operating-room specifications. While rare, a catheterization patient's condition may require that physicians quickly initiate surgery without moving the patient. The technology of the cath lab allows heart surgeons to watch the procedures, especially higher-risk ones, from a variety of portable monitors. These features help optimize quality of care.
The cath lab is located near the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's – Minneapolis.
Children provide different clues to their pain at different ages. A pediatric pain specialist is a health professional specially trained in recognizing and treating pain in infants, toddlers, young children, and adolescents. At Children's, a special team of health professionals from a variety of medical disciplines visit patients in the hospital to evaluate their pain. They work in concert with you, your pediatric cardiologist, and pediatric cardiovascular surgeon to ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible. See our patient / family education handout to learn more about the pain team and managing pediatric pain.
The child life staff at Children's Hospitals and Clinics help make every child's health care experience a positive one. They work with children and adolescents to minimize the stress children can feel during hospital stays or visits to the clinics, emergency rooms, radiology, or surgery areas.
This work is crucial to a child's emotional health because medical settings can be a new, unfamiliar world for children and teens, with the potential for them to develop fears and misconceptions. We build on children's strengths, using many techniques to help them adjust to their medical experiences.
- Children's - Minneapolis
- Children's - St. Paul
- Children's Clinics - Woodwinds
- Children's – Minnetonka
Child life professionals
Our certified child life specialists have a bachelor's or Master's degrees in fields such as child development, education, and child psychology. They specialize in working with children in health care settings, and address the child's need to understand and cope emotionally with the medical experience.
Our child life activities associates have associate or bachelor's degrees in development. They focus on a child's needs for play to support normal growth and development. All child life staff members see patients in playrooms, waiting areas, and patient rooms.
Why playing is so important
Play is the cornerstone of expression in childhood and a normal part of everyday life. The child life department provides opportunities and appropriate toys and activities to encourage children to play. Often through play, a child can relax enough to express feelings or fears about medical experiences.
Child life staff members maintains specially equipped playrooms that are safe, stress-free places for patients to play. Playrooms are the center of activities, including visits from zoo animals, bingo, and other special events.
Playing with medical materials helps a child gain a sense of control. Child life specialists supervise medical play and help children become familiar with hospital equipment. As the child's creative imagination unfolds, the medical equipment and experiences become less frightening.
Additional child life services
Child life staff members:
- Conduct pre-surgery tours and preparation for children scheduled for surgery.
- Teach relaxation and mental imagery techniques to help children control pain, handle anxiety, or cope with medical procedures.
- Provide support for a patient's siblings.
- Facilitate support groups for children facing a chronic or life-threatening illness or experiencing a family loss.
- Conduct classroom visits to help students understand a classmate's illness and health care.
- Collaborate on a closed-circuit television system with live programming.
- Coordinate pet therapy visits.
- Facilitate joint programming with community organizations.
Special facilities for children
In addition to the playrooms, child life staff members maintain other special rooms to help hospitalized children feel at home. Children's – Minneapolis and Children – St. Paul have libraries with books, audiotapes, and videotapes. Special facilities in the clinics, emergency rooms, short stay units, and day surgery centers give children a place to play. Teenagers' recreational needs are met with movies, video games, computers, and DVD and CD players.
It is crucial to involve the entire family in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Our staff works closely with parents and guardians to provide support and understanding of what the child is going through. We also provide information and support to siblings to promote their ability to cope with the situation.
A note to parents
Call our staff if you have questions about your child's behavior or adjustment before or after a hospital or medical experience.
Child Life internships and supervised exposure experiences
We will not be accepting applications for the Summer 2012 internship.
We offer student internships and opportunities for students to learn more about the child life department and hospitalized children. If you have questions about future internship opportunities, please call the child life department in Minneapolis or St. Paul at the number listed below.
Special assistance for physicians
Physicians admitting a child may call the child life department in advance for information on preparing the child for hospitalization. For information call:
- (651) 220-6465 for Children's – St. Paul
- (612) 813-6259 for Children's – Minneapolis
- (952) 930-8600 for Children's - Minnetonka
- (651) 232-0986 for Children's Clinics – Woodwinds
Children are not little adults. They are different physically, emotionally, developmentally, mentally, and in many other ways. The signs of illnesses and injuries are often different in children. Treatments also vary depending on a child's age and development. Children's pediatric specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries of children. At Children's, everything–from diagnostic equipment to medicines to hospital rooms–is geared to the special needs of children and their families.