AN Australian psychologist has developed a therapeutic program for children of all backgrounds in Israeli hospitals to help them with the trauma of hospital, and the unique cultural challenges faced as a young patient.
Child and adult psychologist and author Esther Takac has also offered her services as an honorary psychologist in the paediatric department of Israel’s Hadassah Hospital over the past nine years. Working closely with the hospital’s Director of Paediatric Education Edna Pinchover, the pair saw an opportunity to better prepare and assist children patients – and so Takac got to work.
The resulting program “is designed for the unique cross cultural environment in the Israeli hospital system where children and their parents from a range of backgrounds – religious Jews, secular Jews, Muslim and Christian Israeli Arabs and Palestinians – spend time together,” she told The AJN, continuing, “Outside the hospital some of these diverse people may be seen as the ‘other’, ‘perpetrators of violence’ and even the ‘enemy’. However, in hospital they are likely to be fellow patients sharing your room, and nurses, doctors and teachers looking after you.”
“This provides a real window for change, an opportunity to get to know ‘the other’, break down stereotypes and reduce mistrust and fear.”
As such, Takac developed Journey to Hospital Land, a project with three components. The first includes a therapeutic storybook which aims to empower children with cognitive behaviour strategies and pain management techniques while teaching them about sharing a room with someone of a different background. The second element is a parents guide to Hospital Land which assists parents with supporting their children through the hospitalisation process; and third is the creation of a Hospital Land website, where children can share experiences and ideas for coping.
The book has been written in English and is now in the process of being translated into Hebrew and Arabic. While up until this point, the project has been funded by Takac and a couple Israeli donors, she is hoping to raise $16,000 for further developing the website and printing of the book to be ready for release early next year.
“Our vision for the program is that it is not a resource for Hadassah hospital only, rather it will be distributed through paediatric departments in hospitals all over Israel,” said Takac.
But the greatest hope is that “it helps kids cope with the whole hospital experience in the least traumatic way – and that it is part of creating a more harmonious culture between all different populations.”
To support the project, visit www.hadassahaustralia.org/donate/journey-to-hospital-land/18/credit-card.