NICU support, celebrations and care with Child Life Specialist Ashlee Olson

Ashlee Olson providing support to a patient in the NICU

March is Child Life Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of our Child Life Specialists and the care, instruction and fun that they bring to our patients and their families.

We recently sat down with Ashlee Olson, Certified Child Life Specialist in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. She shared how child life services benefit our tiniest babies in the NICU along with how she helps families and siblings cope with a stay in the NICU.

How do child life services benefit the babies in the NICU?

Child life services benefit not only the babies, but also the family as a whole in the NICU. 

When I am working with babies, I am often providing developmental stimulation and comfort care. This may be through play, sensory activities, reading books or sometimes just normalizing being held. 

We also celebrate many things in the NICU, from the first time family gets to hold their baby to a baby taking their first bottle – we have even thrown 1st birthday parties! 

Every day looks a little different because I really like to tailor my services to each family and their individual needs.

How do you help families and siblings as well?

In the NICU, I work hard to provide an environment that is family centered, so I often work with a lot of siblings. I help siblings understand why their baby brother or sister may be in the NICU and provide diagnosis education, where I can send home resources, medical play equipment and medical play dolls to help siblings feel involved. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

One of the most fulfilling parts of being a CLS in the NICU is truly helping families celebrate milestones. Every small milestone is a big one in our eyes, and it is so rewarding to be right beside these families as we make them. 

Many times, when a baby is in the NICU, they do not get to meet extended family until they go home. It is an honor being able to support families during their most vulnerable times while getting to meet and know their precious babies.

Do you have a favorite memory or story to share from your time in the NICU?

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint just one favorite memory, but if I had to choose one, the small moments tend to stick out the most.

As I’m getting to know families, I’ll always ask them, “is there anything you were looking forward to doing with your baby that you’re worried might not happen in the NICU?” One mom told me she just wanted her baby to see the sun, so I coordinated with the NICU team to make her wish come true. We had our whole team – respiratory therapists, multiple nurses, physicians, residents and other staff – ready to help bring her baby outside for the first time! 

I made sure to capture this moment on camera for the family. I’ll never forget that something as simple as going outside made such a huge positive impact on a family. 

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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