It’s just after 7:30 in the morning on May 5 and five-year-old Gregory Kubrynski stands shyly beside his mother Anjie in the Day Surgery Unit at The Scarborough Hospital’s Birchmount campus as a nurse does some final preparations before he is ushered into the operating room (OR) for a dental surgery procedure.
“That’s a nice dinosaur you have there,” the nurse tells Gregory as she works, noticing the stuffed toy he is clutching.
Gregory brightens instantly. “It’s not a dinosaur, it’s a lizard,” he quickly corrects her, eliciting smiles from both his mom and the nurse.
Like thousands of children and parents before them, Gregory and Anjie are participating in TSH’s “‘Til I Sleep” program, which allows parents to accompany their children into the OR until the child has been anaesthetized or “falls asleep.”
However, on this day, Gregory’s mom has kindly allowed representatives from the Paediatrics program at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) to join her in the OR as part of a special visit the hospital has made to TSH to learn more about this pioneering program that has been in operation for nearly 17 years.
“We’ve heard marvellous things from the Child Life Specialists at TSH about the ‘Til I Sleep program and how it’s run,” said Julie Atkinson, Child Life Specialist at MSH.
“Currently at MSH, parents of selected paediatric patients, such as special needs children, are allowed into the operating room as their child is put under anaesthetic. We are interested in enhancing our program, so we thought it would be a good idea to see TSH’s program in action to help inform how we want to proceed with our service expansion.”
Kellie Stajer, Professional Practice Leader for the Paediatric program at MSH, adds that one of the most important things for the interdisciplinary group that toured the program was “understanding how TSH got buy-in from the whole team, as well as the resistance or barriers the hospital overcame, so we can learn and be successful the way TSH has been.”
Introduced in 1997, TSH was the first hospital in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to implement the ‘Til I Sleep program. ‘Til I Sleep is part of a larger Pre-Operative Teaching program the hospital runs to help reduce anxiety for paediatric surgery patients and familiarize children and families with the hospital environment.
In the Pre-Operative Teaching program, children and their parents or caregivers meet with a Child Life Specialist one to two weeks before their surgery where they visit the Day Surgery Unit, Operating Room, Post-Anaesthetic Care Unit (or “Wake-Up Room”), and the Surgical Waiting Room. The Child Life Specialist is also there on the day of surgery, providing a familiar face for both the child and parents.
“We are extremely proud of the work that has gone into developing ‘Til I Sleep, as well as our entire Pre-Operative Teaching program for paediatric patients and were honoured to help MSH further develop their program in a way that will service the needs of their patients, families, staff and community,” said Michele Clark-Ward, Child Life Specialist at TSH.
Julie and Kellie admit that the information and observations from their visit to TSH will be instrumental as MSH works to enhance their program in the near future.
For more information on TSH’s services for paediatric patients, including ‘Til I Sleep and the Pre-Operative Teaching program, visit https://www.tsh.to/areas-of-care/womens-and-childrens-health/paediatrics/.
Photo caption: MSH Child Life Specialist Julie Atkinson (left) and MSH Professional Practice Leader Kellie Stajer, observe TSH Child Life Specialist Sue Regan (centre) as she assists patient Gregory Kubrynski while he is readied for surgery. Gregory’s mom Anjie comforts him as he is put under anaesthesia.