I love that I not only get to be a teacher, but I can be an advocate for the kids

Cate Koopmans, Employee

I have worked as a child life specialist at Bronson for almost seven years. When I was going to school I always knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t know in what capacity. When I learned about child life, I knew it would be a perfect fit because I enjoy working with children of all ages. I love that I not only get to be a teacher, but I can be an advocate for the kids so they have the best possible experience while at the hospital.

As a child life specialist in radiology, my goal with each patient is to support the children before, during and after the procedure. Beforehand, I teach them about what they can expect. During the process, I communicate what is happening, provide distractions and coach them through the coping tactics we discussed before. This helps maximize their success, and helps the kids feel like they’re in control and mastered the procedure, even if it was scary for them.

I enjoy what I do because you can see the benefit of it every day. After I talk to a patient about what the procedure is like, I can see the fear fade away from their face. In the end, it makes their experience a positive one and not traumatic. For example, as adults, we think something like an ultrasound would be easy and not scary for a child. But when you think about it from the child’s perspective, they are going into a dark room with a lot of medical equipment and a lot of unknowns. My goal is to eliminate the unknowns and let them know what they can expect. Kids are so different than adults, and they need that special attention and explanation.

Working at Bronson has been a great experience. I enjoy that the hospital is large enough to see a wide variety of patients for several different procedures, but is small enough to know everyone you are working with and see patients on a repetitive basis, developing a strong relationship with them. Especially when working with kids, there is such an opportunity for relationship building. They’re so goofy and joyful, and it really adds to the positivity. Even if you don’t feel like being positive, you can work with a kiddo that just brightens up your day. In my job, I have to be positive because kids really pick up on your energy and attitude. I need to be able to convince them that even though they’re having a seemingly scary procedure, they’re going to be okay. When they see us being positive and happy, it helps relieve their fears and they see the hospital isn’t such a bad place.

One of my biggest passions is helping patients get through MRIs without sedation. We accomplish this with the patients through a variety of steps. I talk to them about what they can expect, how long the MRI will last and what they can do to be successful, including different coping tactics. We also use MRI compatible movie goggles we acquired thanks to donations through the Bronson Health Foundation. The goggles allow children to watch a movie during their MRI, providing a comforting, familiar and enjoyable distraction. Using the goggles, combined with the teaching and support, has really allowed us to cut back on sedation during MRIs. Many times parents don’t think their child will be able to hold still. If it’s appropriate we encourage them to let their child give it a try. My favorite moments are when a child successfully completes an MRI without sedation. We give the kids a certificate after completing their procedure and they wave it around saying “I did it!”

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