Hospitalization and medical procedures can be very anxiety provoking for
children and may lead to feelings of confusion, fear, and loss of control.
Knowing that a positive attitude, awareness level, and comfortable environment
can promote positive outcomes, Southeast Georgia Health System now has
a child life specialist on staff to ease children’s fears and clear
up misconceptions related to healthcare.
Earlene Dickson, B.S., CCLS, certified child life specialist, joined the
Health System’s Child Life Program in October. She explains, “My
main purpose is to ease the anxiety and fear of the hospital and healthcare
procedures for children by normalizing the environment, providing developmentally
appropriate education and preparation before procedures, and distraction
A St. Simons Island resident, Dickson previously worked as a child life
specialist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville for five
years. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development
from Georgia Southern University and completed a child life internship
at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa.
Interventions that a child life specialist provides can increase cooperation
and reduce anxiety and pain both during and after procedures, Dickson
explained. “Research shows that children who receive developmentally
appropriate preparation and explanations have better outcomes to their
procedures and better long-term adjustments to any medical challenges
they may face.”
Kimberly Yarbrough of Brunswick explained how Earlene was a huge help to
her 5-year-old son Brian in November when he was admitted to the hospital
with pneumonia. “When we came to the Emergency Care Center the night
before, Brian was very anxious and had a very hard time letting them draw
blood,” she said. The next day, after Brian was admitted to the
hospital, Earlene arrived to assist by providing distraction while his
IV was administered. She shared with him a sound book from the Disney
movie, “Cars”, and the procedure went smoothly. “He
let them hook up the IV without any problems at all,” Yarbrough said.
Dickson also checked back in with Brian and his family, bringing crayons,
pencils, and coloring pages to keep him occupied during the rest of his
stay. “She was just wonderful. She was so easygoing and gentle.
It made things much easier for him and for us,” Yarbrough said.
In addition to preparing children for hospitalization, tests, and procedures,
Dickson’s responsibilities include promoting healthy lifestyles
and injury prevention through community outreach activities. Other services
provided through the Child Life Program include pre-operative tours for
pediatric patients and their families who are scheduled for surgery, and
supporting children who have adult family members that are experiencing
a critical illness or injury.
“This is part of our commitment to family-focused care at Southeast
Georgia Health System,” says Shannon Wainright, director, Patient
Care Services. “In the hospital, Earlene helps prepare children
for procedures in a way they can understand, as well as support children
who have family members who are ill or injured. In the community, she
educates people about children’s health and safety issues.”
The child life specialist is on the Brunswick campus and provides services
in the Pediatric Unit, Emergency Care Center, Radiology and Lab. She also
provides staff education and pre-operative tours on the Camden Campus
and is available for community presentations in both Glynn and Camden
counties. For more information on the Child Life Program at Southeast
Georgia Health System, contact Earlene Dickson at 912-466-2434. For information
on community presentations, please contact the marketing department at