How Game Techs are helping change the game during COVID-19

For a child, a hospital stay can be scary a time. The Child Life department has the very important job of helping children feel more comfortable during their stay. Since COVID-19 appeared, the Child Life staff have new challenges they have to face to help the patients cope with being in the hospital. We reached out to Garrett Goody, a Therapeutic Gaming & Technology Specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, to ask how COVID-19 has affected their Child Life department. Child’s Play funded a two-year grant for his position in 2018 thanks to the support of our donors.

Introduce yourself and how you became a Game Tech. 

My name is Garrett Goody. I have lived in Seattle for close to a decade now, hoping I can claim to be a Seattle native at this point.  My path to becoming a Therapeutic Gaming & Technology Specialist (a bunch of words, I know) is a bit of an odd one. I studied Informatics with a focus in Human-Computer Interactions in college and set out to be a UX Designer, but I ended up becoming an elementary school librarian! During the summer I would go to the Oregon coast to help run a summer camp, so with both of those jobs, I developed a lot of skills with children. I was eventually laid off from my library job and was looking for jobs online that involved children and technology. This was the only job that came up in those searches, and the rest is history.

How has your day to day role changed since Covid-19 hit?

Due to the severity of the virus, all the staff at the hospital has been reduced dramatically in who is able to be there. We shrunk down to on-site staff, but the Child Life department (of which I am a part of) was asked to maintain the minimum amount of staff to still function. So that has translated to me working from home two to three days a week and being on-site the remainder. The days I am on campus are much busier as a result!

What tools and technology have proven especially important?

Being able to use Zoom for meetings has been a real boon lately. Sometimes I will need to troubleshoot an issue from home and being able to see everything with Zoom cuts down on long interactions. We are also lucky to have Bungie Foundation iPads in every room in the hospital as well as all the Child Life team having assigned iPads has been tremendously helpful. Being able to push apps house-wide with minimal effort has made things like remote gaming and distance meetings not only possible but easy.

What tools/technology do you wish your facility had that would help? 

It is hard to say for what things would be beneficial right now when we are coming up with emergent solutions. The honest answer is I wish I could be there more, and I wish we could have more people on my team. I am looking forward to the day I can have my Gaming Volunteers back at the hospital, and I am very excited to be adding another person to my team in the coming months. 

How have your visits to patients changed?  The number of visits, style of visit, precautions?

The flow of my day is much different being confined to less on-site time. Due to the conservation of PPE, it is more important to line up my patient interactions to be back to back so as to not waste any equipment. While we had non-emergent surgeries closed and fewer patients admitted it did create fewer patient interactions and translated to more problem-solving work like brainstorming new opportunities or adapting old ones. Now that things are slightly more open it means I try and see the patients that would normally be spread out over 5 days into two or three, which is admittedly more difficult. 

How has your work with your Child Life co-workers changed?

This entire experience has honestly made me appreciate my Child Life team even more than I did before. Due to working from home frequently I interact with them less in person and it has made me feel a little isolated at times. I make a concerted effort to spend time and interact with my amazing team whenever possible. I really would not be able to do my job half as well if I didn’t have such a supportive and caring team. 

Have you helped other departments with technology related to Covid-19 precautions?

I have worked with many departments to come up with technology solutions recently, from social distance gaming in rehab to helping the Emergency Department assess teleconferencing options, organizing Jackbox games for patients in the Cancer Care unit, to working on VR/360° video for prep in off-site clinics, and probably more I’m forgetting right now. One of my primary goals lately has been forging new solutions to help now that can stand on their own after this crisis is over so we can use this trying time and hopefully make something positive come from it in the end.

Thanks to Garrett and the Child Life staff, patients who experience feelings of isolation and fear have an outlet to work through those feelings. Your donations help us provide games, equipment, and Game Tech positions to children’s hospitals around the world. All of these tools are very important, especially during this time, for helping kids Play Games and Feel Better.

If you are interested in donating to our cause, please visit our website