At Child’s Play, we’re passionate advocates for the importance of Child Life Specialists in hospitals. Hospitals can be a scary place for a child, and Child Life Specialists play a crucial role in improving quality-of-life for children who are often in the most difficult situation of their lives. One of the challenges in this important work is time. A CLS with a full patient load is likely to find it difficult to find time to research the latest tools and technologies available, let alone keep up with cutting-edge developments in the latest games! Thankfully for Children’s Hospital Colorado, we were able to step in and help out.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundraisers, we were able to offer Children’s Hospital Colorado a grant to fund a full-time Gaming Technology Specialist. This position was quickly filled by the eminently skilled Michael Kundrat, and we were able to siphon off some of his time to talk about what the job looks like.
What Does a Gaming Specialist Do?
Child Life staff are, by necessity, often focused more on school-age children, so a specialist like Michael is able to offer valuable help to older children and teens who may need more diverse and complex entertainment. Before taking up this position, he worked as an instructor at Gamestart, teaching young people skills that run the gamut of technologies from programming to 3D modeling and printing. Combined with a lifetime of experience as a gamer, Michael was in the perfect position to take on this role.
The power of gaming in improving quality-of-life for patients is enormous, and a great deal of Michael’s time is spent researching the latest technologies and methods to achieve this. On the most basic level, playing games together is a great way to get kids out of their rooms and talking to each other, alleviating the boredom and loneliness that can set in during a hospital stay. Newer technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, can have a truly transformative effect.
The Technologies That Transform a Hospital Stay
Google Earth VR is a particularly popular program, freeing patients from the confines of the hospital ward and allowing them to travel the Earth and see all the amazing sights that it has to offer. The sense of control that comes from this unfettered exploration is sorely needed when a patient has been bedridden for days, weeks or even months.
Virtual Reality art programs like Tilt Brush and Medium allow patients to experience a truly immersive creative outlet, creating art and sculptures in 3D space that would cost hundreds of dollars of materials to create in real life. The boundless potential of these creative tools opens them up to people with no artistic experience, knowing that any mistakes or missteps they make can be undone in an instant.
Many patients, of course, suffer from restricted mobility, so Michael comes prepared with games that can be enjoyed by anyone. Eagle Flight is a great example; a game that allows a player to explore the skies of Paris as an Eagle, using only small head tilting movements.
The fun and creativity of VR is one thing, but hospitals are currently experimenting with the use of VR and AR as pain management tools. A burn patient who has to undergo regular, painful dressing changes can turn that ordeal into an opportunity to explore a new world, and research is currently underway to explore new ways that these technologies can be used to manage acute and chronic pain.
Your Help Makes All This Possible
Child Life staff have a difficult and vital job that makes an enormous difference to the lives of their patients. Having a specialist like Michael available allows them to make the best use of the technology at their disposal, and his research and expertise keeps them on top of the latest developments. If you’d like to get involved in Child Life, either as a career or just to help out, Michael recommends contacting your local hospital and seeing what volunteer positions they have available so that you can learn the ropes.
Michael’s position at Children’s Hospital Colorado wouldn’t be possible without the grant from Child’s Play, and that grant wouldn’t be possible without the help of our donors and fundraisers. Donating to Child’s Play makes a huge difference to hospitals, both by making this amazing technology available and by allowing them to fund the staff to make use of it. If you think this work is as important as we do, please consider making a one-off or recurring donation.