Sara Barnett knows that no one wants to be in the hospital. No child. No teenager. No grown-up. No one. And it’s that knowing that drives Sara to care for those who find themselves where they never wanted to be.
Sara has worked on child-life teams in hospitals for more than 30 years. As the manager of child-life & volunteer resources at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, her profession is rooted in the power of optimism. She and her team are the ones called to bring greater humanity, compassion, and connection to the hospital’s youngest and most vulnerable patients and families.
They discover loving solutions for such painful obstacles as: How do we make the walk into treatment less scary? Where can we create a space that’s safe to play and let go? When throughout the course of care can we help our patients regain a meaningful sense of choice and control?
The questions, answers, and realities are nearly always difficult, and yet the invitation to continually evolve the practice and application of compassion-informed care is one that Sara wholeheartedly accepts.
“While it’s true that no one wants to end up in the hospital, it’s also true that once patients arrive, there are real ways that we can help them, build resiliency by feeling safe, loved, and even grateful while they’re here. And we know that how we feel can significantly impact how we heal.”
One way that Riley Hospital invested in the holistic wellness of their pediatric patients was by partnering with the Garth Brooks Teammate for Kids Foundation and installing an official Teammates Child-Life Zone: A dedicated space where patients regardless of diagnoses can go to play, create, connect, and simply take time out to be a kid.
“Teammates brought Steve Gross from The Life is Good Kids Foundation to engage our team in a deep conversation about the power of optimism and how we as the Child-Life Team could cultivate more of it for ourselves, our colleagues, and, most importantly, for our patients.”
What started with one inspiring address grew into a true partnership. Sara worked with Teammates and the executive leadership at Riley to secure the funding and scheduling to begin implementing The Life is Good Kids Foundation’s signature Playmaker Program.
“The tools, practices, and coaching helped all of us begin to really notice all of the ways we could prioritize connection, compassion, and culture,” said Sara.
“Delivering excellent care and outstanding human services actually required us as individuals and colleagues to be excellent and outstanding to ourselves and to each other, too. The Playmaker practice and philosophy is helping us find actionable ways to do that. It’s…making our hospital feel like a good place to be, even when patients don’t want to be here.”
The Life is Good Kids Foundation applauds the lasting positive differences that Playmakers like Sara and her team at Riley Hospital continue to make on behalf of our children and our world. We’re humbled by our partnership and look forward to all the good that we’ll continue to grow together.
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