Children's Minnesota doctor gives back to Child Life program

Children’s Minnesota doctor gives back to Child Life program

Dr. Jen Pratt is living out her childhood dream as a pediatrician at the same hospital she sought treatment from over two decades earlier.

MINNEAPOLIS — Finding happiness during tough moments is a specialty of the Child Life Department at Children’s Minnesota.

“We are kind of like the kids experts of the kids experts at Children’s Minnesota,” said child life specialist Jodie Betsinger.

The Child Life team helps patients and their families remember who they are outside of the hospital by promoting normalization.

“Even though [patients] are here to get their care and get their bodies healthy again, we give them an opportunity for them to still be kids,” said Betsinger.

According to their website, the team encourages “healthy methods of emotional expression by encouraging patients in our hospitals to channel their feelings through play, arts, music and more.”

The team works in tandem with the medical staff, including pediatric hospitalist Dr. Jen Pratt.

“I have seen our child life specialists work with some of my patients and they make a world of difference,” said Dr. Pratt.

Dr. Pratt can speak to the success of the Child Life department as a former patient at Children’s Minnesota over two decades ago.

At 11 years old, Dr. Pratt was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in her leg that left her unable to walk.

“I really benefitted from the whole care team from the physicians to the nurses and especially the Child Life department,” said Dr. Pratt. “They were really instrumental in helping me through some of the treatments I needed to essentially cure my cancer.”

Her time at Children’s Minnesota had a lasting impact in deciding her future career path and led to her interest in healthcare.

“As I was going through treatment, I really started to feel this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to go to into medicine and become a pediatrician and hopefully come back here to work,” said Dr. Pratt.

And in 2013, Dr. Pratt found herself again at Children’s but this time as a doctor helping the patients that she once was. She believes this shared experience allows her to grow closer to her patients and their families.

“It really helps to have the background experience,” said Dr. Pratt. “To know the stress, the fear, the anxiety that families are facing when they come to the hospital and to be part of that team to ease some of those feelings.”

Dr. Pratt credits her successful treatment to the Child Life department. From learning breathing techniques to help during intense chemotherapy to keeping her then 5-year-old sister engaged in understanding her sister’s condition.

“I just can’t say enough good things about the child life team here and how important they are to our patients,” said Dr. Pratt. “Having the team here helped me through my journey. It really made it into a positive and hopeful experience. Even though it was scary, in the end, I felt empowered to do something more and to come back.”

The Child Life department is a part of Children’s Minnesota, a non-profit health care organization, both of which need donations to help provide programs like music therapy, holiday themed parties and other coping techniques to help “kids be kids.” Donations also ensure these activities don’t show up on a patient’s bill.

If you would like to support the Child Life department and Children’s Minnesota, you can donate to the Children’s Minnesota Foundation or through their Amazon wishlist of specialized items, including musical instruments, books and other toys and games.

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