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Preparing to stay at the Texas Children’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit
Every day many patients and families enter Texas Children’s Hospital from a variety of cultural backgrounds, geographical locations and unique healthcare experiences. To best meet the unique needs of a diverse patient population, individualized and quality care is a top priority.
One area that places a specific emphasis on individualizing patient care is the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), an inpatient unit specializing in the care of children with seizures and epilepsy. These patients are monitored by a team of technologists twenty-four hours a day by using electroencephalograms (EEGs) with video. Because every patient is different, the goal of the medical team within the EMU is to evaluate and study a child's seizures in order to formulate the best possible care plan for each individual patient.
As part of the EMU team, my role as the child life specialist is to help support these patients during their admission through encouraging positive coping strategies for patients and families. My goals directly align with the medical team: providing the same level of individualized care for patients. Specifically, I aim to promote comfort, education and an overall positive hospital experience for patients and families.
How do we go about providing individualized coping support for patients?
We can start with one of the first steps of a patient's admission process-- their EEG electrode placement. Establishing a personalized coping plan with the patient and family for this procedure is the key to success. Will this patient cope most effectively by utilizing alternate focus activities such as blowing bubbles or watching their favorite movie? Can we give the patient opportunities for mastery over their environment by allowing them choose which color of electrode will be placed next? Will comfort from their caregiver or most loved stuffed animal be most beneficial? Modifying a procedure in small ways can impact the overall hospital experience in larger ways. We then transition to supporting a patient from the EEG monitoring portion of their admission. Does the patient understand the reason for coming to the hospital? What creative ideas can we implement to normalize the hospital environment through therapeutic play? Taking an individualized approach to assessing a patient’s specific needs for education or opportunities for play also contribute to an overall positive healthcare experience to and it is my role to encourage this type of personalized care.
As the medical team works together to provide individualized care to patients, the most important piece of individualizing the care is the collaboration with the patient and their family. Caregivers are the experts on their children's specific needs so their input is vital. While an EMU admission may be new for a patient and family, the video about an upcoming EMU admission provides families with information to empower them to make choices as a part of the health care team. This information allows the family to collaborate with the medical team, including the child life specialist, to contribute to the overall common goal: ensuring the best possible health care experience through individualizing care for each patient and family.