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Author: Greater Charitable Foundation

More than 2000 Gold Coast children supported by Child Life Therapy Program

The Greater Charitable Foundation (GCF) continues to provide funding support to the unique Child Life Therapy service at Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH). The funding for this role has subsequently led to exceeding expectations and significantly enhanced hospital experiences for hundreds of children and their families.

The Child Life Therapy Service has been running at GCUH since 2016 in a limited capacity. However, thanks to funding from GCF in 2018, GCUH has been able to increase the impact of this service by funding a 3 year program, allowing for tremendous improvements and growth in both the internal hospital culture and environment, and enriching the experience of the hospital journey for many children and their families. This innovative service within the perioperative environment continues to pave the way in Queensland health initiatives.

Day-to-day the Occupational Therapists (OTs) working within this role utilise therapeutic play to educate, normalise, familiarise and desensitise children and their families to a range of medical interventions and procedures. The support from GCF has allowed for so much more than this daily operation. Over time, strong relationships with a wide range of clinicians have been solidified enabling greater ability for the OTs within the role to initiate and implement plans to support and improve patient journeys prior to their planned interventions. The program has seen more recent involvement in supporting the medical imaging team in the provision of simulated MRI’s and procedural support planning for a range of other types of imaging.

Additionally, the full-time funding has allowed time for engagement in quality improvement, developing relationships with Universities and leading research. These activities are an important part of the bigger picture to obtain permanent, recurrent funding from the Queensland Health Service which was the goal established with  GCF at the outset. To date, activities have included presentations at National Conferences, an article submitted for publication into the international Journal of Perioperative Practice and ongoing research into the effectiveness of the program.

With the support from GCF, the team have been able to facilitate a more positive journey for over 2000 Gold Coast children since the introduction of this program. Prior to this support, the team on average supported 29 children per month. This number has more than doubled in two years, even with COVID restrictions in place.

Happily, the numbers are not the only improvement in outcomes. The program consistently receives positive parental feedback as well as internal staff compliments and recognition for the interventions provided. Comments include that staff feel "children are calmer, with fewer children requiring pre-medication and cancellation of surgeries due to child distress and anxiety" and that they are "more confident working with children and their families in the peri-operative environment because of the program".