Today’s hospitals aren’t what they used to be. More than just a building where patients recover from infection, mend broken bones, or undergo surgery to repair vital organs, a modern hospital is a place where people can restore their minds and spirits as well as their bodies. That’s especially true of children’s hospitals.
“We look at how hospitalization can impact children and their families and how they cope with illness or the hospitalization experience,” says Christine Neugebauer, manager of integrative care at Covenant Children’s Hospital. “We have programs to ease the way for children and families to deal with that pain and anxiety.”
At Covenant Children’s, innovative programs help heal more than just the body.
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At Covenant Children’s, these programs use music, art, and verbal therapy to help both children and parents process and manage the confusion, pain, trauma, and fear that often comes with an extended stay at the hospital for an illness or injury.
“Expressive arts are a huge piece of how we work with children,” says Neugebauer. “Some may need more play. Some may need more verbal therapy. We try to individualize it for each family and hopefully tap into the strengths for that family in that moment.”
"We have programs to ease the way for children and families to deal with that pain and anxiety."
Covenant Children’s employs a board-certified music therapist, who uses music to do much more than just help patients relax or cheer up. Music can also enable children and parents to communicate.
“If they’ve lost motor skills due to illness or injury, they can use music to regain motor or cognitive skills,” says Neugebauer. “A lot of kids come in already experiencing complex developmental or medical histories. They don’t communicate the typical way. Music helps.”
At Covenant Children’s, there are rooms where children can play instruments and even write their own songs. Furthermore, music is used in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where it can help infants with neurodevelopment. Parents are taught to sing or use songs to calm their child and they can even write their own lullaby to build a personal connection to the baby.
"We try to individualize it for each family and hopefully tap into the strengths for that family in that moment."
Pediatric & Women’s Mental Health
Stress and anxiety are common issues for children and families during hospitalization—but now is a particularly worrisome time due to COVID-19. It’s rare for any hospital to have a full-time in-house mental health expert to help patients cope.
Covenant Children’s has two.
The pair not only help kids deal with the fear and frustration of illness, injury, and hospitalization, but they also help the parents—particularly new mothers who might be experiencing postpartum depression.
Covenant Children’s also enlists the services of two artists in residence who organize arts and crafts, one for children in pediatrics, the other for mothers in the NICU. The hospital also welcomes representatives from Ballet Lubbock who come in twice a week to provide safe and creative dance instruction both in the in-house studio and through closed-circuit TV for patients to participate in their rooms.
Painting, crafts, and dance provide a means for children and mothers to connect with other people, with each other, and with themselves. It also acts as a welcome distraction.
“Engaging in those creative experiences, sometimes patients discover something new,” says Neugebauer. “You spend an hour on a project, you forget you’re even in a hospital.”
Arts in Medicine