"I love having the chance to empower children": A Child Life Specialist's full-circle Riley story

Elizabeth Carter, RN, and Abigail Rainey
Sisters and Riley colleagues Elizabeth Carter, RN, and Certified Child Life Specialist Abigail Rainey

Everywhere you look at Riley Hospital, you'll see examples of how donors are making a difference for kids. If you ever have the pleasure of watching one of Riley's Child Life Specialists work their magic with kids, you'll understand just how critical these donor-supported services are.

Today, we introduce you to one member of Riley's amazing Child Life team, Abigail Rainey, who has joined her sister in following their Riley roots into rewarding careers.

Q: Tell us about your personal background and how it influenced your decision to pursue a career in medicine?

A: I am a quadruplet, and when my sisters and I were born, we spent a lot of time in the NICU at Riley Hospital. Riley is part of my story, and that is something I am proud of.

I never dreamed that I would be working here at Riley. Growing up, it always held a special place in my heart, but it wasn't until I learned more about Child Life that I thought it would be a possibility to work here. Riley at IU Health gives back a lot to the community, and I am honored to be giving back in a place that helped me get started in life.

Today, I work as a Child Life Specialist in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Riley Hospital. I work to meet the emotional, social, and developmental needs of the patients I see. I help kids understand and cope with their hospitalization. I help prepare children for procedures, learn about their diagnosis and play while they are here at Riley. I also work to help support siblings and friends of patients impacted by their hospitalization.

Q: What excites you about your work, and what are the goals that motivate you?

A: I love that there are new opportunities to help kids every day. One thing that I find most meaningful about my work is when a child can find success or a small “victory" while they are here. It could be holding still for an IV, shouting "I did it!" after having a procedure done, or creating something through play that allows them to express themselves. I love having the chance to empower children while they are in the hospital.

Q: What do you wish more people knew about Riley’s Child Life Specialists?

A: Evidence-based practice states that most children who are prepared for medical procedures (or hospitalization when possible) have lower levels of fear and anxiety compared to children who are not prepared. We can help give them the tools they need to cope while they are here at Riley, and promote future coping and adjustment to other medical challenges as well.

Q: Is there a memorable career moment you'd like to share that let you know you were making a difference?

A: A patient I worked with was having a really hard time taking his oral medications. After my assessment, I learned that he didn't fully understand why he needed the medicine, or that it was going to help his pain go away just like his medicine did through his IV. I used what he already knew about the medicine through his IV to help educate him about the different kind of medicine he would be taking.  He was able to verbalize what would happen if the medicine was not taken, and how it would help his body. He also confided in me that he was unable to swallow pills, something he had been embarrassed to tell anyone, so I helped him practice.

Before he left the PICU, he was growing in confidence swallowing pills and was able to take the medicine he needed. It was good to know I had helped him not only understand what was helping him get better, but also set him up with the tools to have success outside of the hospital. He was so proud of what he had accomplished while he was in the hospital.

Q: What message do you have for all the people in the community who raise funds and make gifts in support of Riley Hospital?

A: Thank you to anyone who has ever raised funds or made gifts to Riley Hospital for Children. Your generosity and kindness help make this hospital the best place for children to get the help they deserve.

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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