This years FACLP conference was held in south, sunny Miami! Our staff was so lucky because our hospital was able to send all 8 of our specialists to the conference. This was my first child life conference (I’ve been dying to attend a national conference, but haven’t made it to one yet) so I was pretty excited to go and hear all the great presentations!
The FACLP conference did NOT disappoint. First off, let’s just talk about the food and location. Held in the gorgeous Westin Colonnade, we were nothing if not comfortable the whole weekend. And the food!! Man did they feed us well. When I arrived Saturday morning I was greeted by a table of freshly made fruit smoothies. And is there anything better in the morning than being greeted by freshly made smoothies?! Right then and there I knew it was going to be a good weekend. And when they ended the conference with a “make your own ice cream bar?”
Moving beyond the food, because I promise we did more than eat. The conference was split into numerous sessions, 6 of which we signed up for a few weeks prior. 3 sessions on Saturday and 3 sessions on Sunday. Although all sessions had something great about them, I’ll make note of 2 of my favorite sessions, the first on Saturday and the other on Sunday.
My first session on Saturday was entitled “Companioning through the Wilderness of Grief,” presented by 3 specialists from All Children’s Hospital. This session was eye opening. As child life specialists, I believe we all know our weaknesses and mine is definitely bereavements. I’m an outpatient girl, having worked in Radiology/Ambulatory and now Outpatient Surgical, so bereavements are not something I deal with on a normal basis. From time to time one of us, myself included, gets called to the adult ICU to help with an adult bereavement (when there are children involved in the family situation) and I find my heart racing a little with nerves every time I walk into that ICU. When someone passes away, and we as child life specialists are there to be the person of comfort for the family, it’s hard to not do what we can to try our hardest to take away some of that pain the family is feeling. We use phrases like, “You will get through this” and “What can I do to help?” because we are not always sure what else to do or what else to say. But during the presentation (which was based on the book “The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner” by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt- now on my to read list) they shared this quote: “Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.” How enlightening is that?! All the time I struggle with “but what do I say!?” and the answer is, sometimes you don’t have to say anything. You may just need to sit silently with the family, a pillar of support, but no words are needed. We are so trained when it comes to how to talk to kids about death, but yet sometimes, we need to forget the words and just be silent! Definitely a skill I will be working on in the future.
The second session I loved was on Sunday. It was entitled “I have been here for 2 weeks! Now What? Child Life Interventions throughout their pediatric care,” presented by 2 specialists from Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. This session was just chock full of AMAZING intervention ideas and we all left ready to implement new interventions with our own patients. This is a very common struggle for many child life specialists. We have those frequent flyers and/or patients that stay for a LOOOONNNGG time and we struggle to come up with new and interesting ideas for what we can do with those patients. We get stuck in a rut, and also stuck in our common teaching and prep ways, and it can be intimidating to try new things. But this session encouraged me to think outside the box and I definitely have some new ideas for my surgical teachings! 🙂
So, all in all, a great conference and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to attend!