surgery at the children's hospital

 When we think about choosing a place for our child to have surgery we think, appropriately, about the surgeon, and perhaps the anesthesiologist.

Many surgeons and anesthesiologists are able to provide technically excellent intraoperative care for children as well as adults, or exclusively for children, but if that care is provided in a non-children's hospital, something else might be missing. I am including below an exerpt from a letter written by the grandparent of a child who recently underwent a surgical procedure at the Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital to one of our Child Life Specialists.

A Child Life Specialist is an expert in addressing the psychological and emotional needs of children experiencing illness, undergoing procedures, or suffering from pain.

During the course of preparing her for the surgery and all that would  take place at that time, you worked closely with her, you gave her a sense of comfort and a sense that even though she had to go through this,  that you would be with her through it all.  The fact that she would be seeing a familiar face and not just a group of masked strangers was settling for her.   She had spent the couple of days prior to her surgery with us and during those two days, she talked about you so much and how easy you were to talk with and how fond she was of you.   This was reassuring to us as well.  
On the day of her surgery, you were indeed there for her and that meant  so much.  But in addition to that, you were there for us as well.  You kept us closely informed of what was going on, what we could expect and her progress through the whole process.  Your presence and your obvious devotion to your patients was such a blessing to us.  Your gentleness, your compassion and your sensitivity to our anxiety helped us to get through this with minimal stress.  I had my tonsils removed when I was 19 (and it was awful!!) but would have readily and willingly gone through it again for Alexis if that had been possible.  YOU made it much more bearable for us all.  
 We thank God for you and that there are still some people out there like you who truly do care and take the opportunity to provide excellent patient care seriously. 

Isn't that wonderful?  How many of us have had a stressful hospital experience?

I know I had a dreadful time when I was hospitalized at the age of 9. There were no child life specialists at that time, and even if there had been, I was admitted to a hospital that did not provide that kind of specialized care for children.
I am tremendously proud knowing that our children's hospital can provide a healthcare experience for children and their parents that is caring and personal. A surgeon and an anesthesiologist, no matter how good they are at what they do, can not do what this grandparent wrote about.

Our child life specialists provide care in our inpatient unit, our oncology clinic, the operating rooms and the pediatric emergency department in Roanoke. They are part of what makes a children's hospital a children's hospital.

Recent Comments

Our Child Life Specialists make the whole process of a medical stay or procedure so much easier for patients and families. We truly appreciate as providers and health care personnel everything they do each and every day.


My 2 year old daughter has stayed at CCCH four times now, and we have always been treated with the greatest of care. The child life specialists were wonderful before her surgery, and keeping her occupied while having to stay in her room. I will always choose a children's hospital for my children if I am able. The care and attention is outstanding, and everyone (doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc) offer a level of care that is so child and family friendly.

Heather, thanks so much for your comments. I sincerely hope we are always able to meet your expectations.

Our son was eight when he was first admitted to a hospital. That facility was not a Childrens Hospital and was definitely not staffed with the right caregivers for children. His condition became worse and required him to transfer to CCCH. The immediate difference in care provided by the doctors and nurses and involvement by the child life specialists was remarkable. Subsequent to that first stay at CCCH, there were several more but each and every time our family was kept informed and our son was at ease with what he was dealing with. Thanks to everyone that cares for these children and takes the time to be there for the family! During a difficult time, it provides a level of stability and comfort to have a support system like the one at CCCH.

I am very sorry your son requires frequent hospitalizations. I can think of nothing worse for a child than to be in the midst of strangers, especially when he is sick. Thank you for your comments and your kind words. We are always looking to make things better, since we know we are not perfect, so please let us know what we can do to make the next time better than before.

My son Ethan had to have surgery 2 years ago when he was six at CCCH. This was the first experience I had personally had with a child life specialist. I can not begin to tell you what a blessing she was to us and to our son. She was so reassuring and explained to him what was going to happen so that he could understand. She went with him to the OR and was with him when he came back. She also followed up with me in the waiting room and then came to see us again before we went home. I cannot imagine what it would have been like without Tara there to help us. She was a God- send!

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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