Letters to Child's Play

The clinical use of gaming and virtual technologies will clearly have a significant impact in acute and chronic pain and stress management, as well as psychiatric and pain/physical rehabilitation over the next several years. We believe that as costs decrease, technologies diversify, and clinical experience with these technologies grows, there will be a remarkable potential for explosive innovation that will improve the experience and care of patients throughout the medical field. Yet despite its early promise, the academic literature remains limited, and few of its espoused benefits have been implemented and applied in clinical practice; the full scope of its potential has yet to be explored

Child Life Specialists are experts in child development and helping children navigate the stresses of the healthcare environment and therefore are most optimally equipped for helping merge these technologies into the healthcare environment to help improve patient and family’s experiences. However, Child Life Specialists do not typically receive the training needed to successfully navigate the growing market of technological advancement and how it might be therapeutically applied. In addition, clinical demands make it challenging to dedicate the time needed to successfully implement best practice regarding technology application.

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we saw the need for a Gaming and Technology Specialist, and knew that in the current state of healthcare, this would be difficult for our hospital to dedicate funding towards.  After several in depth conversations with Child’s Play, we decided to write a proposal asking for funding for the position.  We were thrilled to obtain the funding, and are happy to say that we have hired Mike Kundrat, our Gaming and Technology Specialist in August 2017.

Mike’s impact has already been greatly felt across CHCO. We have seen patients who would not move certain parts of their bodies get so engaged in virtual reality that they moved beyond expectations.  We have seen kids who felt alone and isolated join with other patients to play and get to know each other.  We have seen our patients tolerate painful procedures without sedation. One of the most compelling things, for me, has been the connection/rapport building that can happen with gaming. Child life specialists are sharing that kids who typically don’t interact are engaging, kids who are sad are finding joy in technology, and kids who have been unable to game are now gaming! We have a patient that has been with us for several years, he is unable to move from the neck down.  Through the creativity of the child life specialist and the gaming technologist, he now can game and has successfully used AR and VR. Imagine the complete change/transformation for this young man! It has been inspirational for the patient, his family, and his medical team.

Positions like this are going to change healthcare as we know it! We are so grateful to Child’s Play and the amazing donors for helping to make this dream a reality.  At this point, I have shared our proposal with so many of my child life leader colleagues, as they see the importance and value of having this position in their own departments. I know that Child’s Play shares our vision, and hope to someday see many of these positions in every pediatric healthcare organization.

Carla Oliver, MSW, CCLS
Director Child Life
Children’s Hospital Colorado