Megan Gertz is a Child Life Specialist at the Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital at Loyola Medicine and also a committee member for the 2013 Chicago CureSearch Walk. Megan works with children and families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. She provides children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management, and coping strategies, and play and self-expression activities. Megan also provides information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. CureSearch recently caught up with Megan to learn more about her role, and what led her to this profession.
Q: What lead you to becoming a Child Life Specialist?
A: In high school, I babysat for a family whose oldest daughter was diagnosed with Wilms tumor. I continued to babysit for her through college and saw how much she loved the Child Life Specialists who took care of her. She fought hard for years, but unfortunately when she relapsed for the fourth time, there was nothing else the medical professionals or her family could do. I came home to be with the family, and this sweet little girl said to me, “Meg, you would be a great teacher, but I think you should work with kids like me.” At the time, I was studying to be a teacher, but immediately changed my major in honor of her.
Q: What is an average day like for you at the hospital?
A:I work with inpatient, outpatient, radiology, oncology, ER, NICU, Burn units at my hospital, so I get to work with children of all ages. I run and manage the play room, teen room, radio station and school room. I spend most of my days working with inpatients and enjoy getting to know them. I interact with patients through medical and play therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, and art programs. I also work with the entire family to provide support for the new diagnosis or treatment plan. It is wonderful that I have the privilege of working with some families from diagnosis, through treatment, and after treatment, which means I am able to establish long-term relationships with many of them.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a Child Life Specialist?
A: My favorite part of my job is getting to know the patients and their families. Each and every patient teaches me a new lesson every day. Children are very resilient and always have a smile on their face, no matter what they are going through. I have learned that every day is a gift and that we should all live our days to their fullest.
I have made helping children with cancer my life’s passion. I put everything into it, if there is anything that can be done, I want to be there helping and making a difference.