Health Sciences Centre Child Life Department Charts New Territory

As a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, Dawn Kidder is quite literally charting new territory. She recently returned from what she calls an experience of a lifetime – a visit to Kivalliq region of Nunavut.

Kidder spent five days this August visiting two communities in Kivalliq – Coral Harbour and Repulse Bay. As part of her continued support program for a chronically ill patient from Coral Harbour, she accompanied Dr. Michael Moffat, Community Pediatrician for Repulse Bay and Coral Harbour and Exec. Drtr. Research and Quality, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, on his visit to the region. They were sent by the J.A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit of the University of Manitoba. Kidder is the first Child Life Specialist from the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) to have visited these communities.

“I went with no expectations. My mantra was to listen, observe and watch,” Kidder said.

In her role at the Health Sciences Centre, Kidder provides psycho-social support for children in the hospital. That’s why in addition to visiting with the patient, she also seized the opportunity to offer her knowledge and skills to the communities by visiting their schools. She met with several classes where she ‘demystified’ what a hospital experience would be like should they ever be patients at Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg – an experience which may be a daunting one for children from small communities like theirs.

“This was an opportunity to get kids together, prepare them for a visit to Children’s Hospital and to empower them as people who can advocate for themselves,” she said. “These kids would have never had this opportunity.””It was wonderful that she had the opportunity to extend child services so far away from the Health Sciences Centre, where it was much needed and provided a clear benefit. Dawn was also able to gain a greater sense of life in Northern communities,” said Renee Ethans, Child Life Manager, Health Sciences Centre.

“This (Child Life) service is especially beneficial for patients who come from remote Northern communities, because in addition to the normal psychological stress of hospitalization, they may face cultural shock, and heightened separation issues as they are further removed from family, friends, school and routines, than for example, our Winnipeg patients,” Ethans said.

Kidder also assisted the local health centre in Repulse Bay. On one occasion, she provided a Kindergarten class muslin patient dolls, so they could practice administering TB tests – the test the children were about to receive.

“You could have heard a pin drop,” she said, recalling when she demonstrated the technique to the Kindergarten class.

Kidder says she is committed to sharing her new found understanding of Inuit culture with her colleagues. As a result of the visit, the Children’s Hospital Book Corner/Patient

Library now has Inuit books on its shelves thanks to the community of Repulse Bay which donated several picture books to the library.