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Bluebird Program Helps Put St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital Patients at Ease

By Chris Langrill, News and Community
October 24, 2017
A new program at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital features a variety of coping items, such as this mobile sensory station, that are available to patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities or developmental disabilities.

A couple of years ago, Miranda Laramie watched a webinar.

That webinar sparked an idea, one that has grown into the aptly named Bluebird Program. After all, the Bluebird Program continues to spread its wings, and the sky is the limit for its potential within the St. Luke’s Health System – and beyond.  

“(The webinar) was about developing a better program for kids with autism and how to best take care of them,” said Laramie, a certified child life specialist with St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. “And then it really spurred a discussion about a program, not just for kids with autism, but for kids with developmental delay and sensory sensitivities.

“And since then, we’ve figured out lots of different ways for what works best for them.”

The team works with patients diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities and developmental disabilities and their families to identify the best ways to communicate and approach sensitivities, triggers and behaviors.

A special “bluebird” magnet is placed outside the door of the patient’s room, letting staff members know to speak with a nurse or check the patient’s chart prior to entering to ensure the best possible patient and family experience.

During their stays, patients have access to a variety of coping items, from weighted blankets to white noise machines to vibrating tubes.

“We have some really cool multisensory machines,” Laramie said. “Parents go, ‘Whoa! This thing really calmed my kid.’ It’s super cool. It can help any kid in the recovery room, no matter what their needs are. It’s just been a really great machine.”

Matty Grant, 11, has cerebral palsy and receives care at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. He is pictured here with Candice Brunton, a certified nursing assistant.

Amber Grant has two sons with developmental delays. Matty, 11, has cerebral palsy, and Luke, 16, is autistic.

“They have both been to St. Luke’s a lot,” Grant said. “The Bluebird Program is close to my heart.”

Grant said hospital visits can be difficult for her sons, so every effort to make them a little more comfortable is appreciated.

“My little guy, we picked the aromatherapy and music for him,” Grant said. “And when he’s in the hospital, when he’s in the recovery room, we’ve had to have our older son with us a lot. And they’ve been so great about giving him things that are helpful for his sensory needs and his coping needs. … He loves the big, long fiber-optic tentacles.

“But one of the biggest things is having that form on the door that says, ‘This is how I cope. This is how I learn. This is how to approach me.’ That’s a big deal.”

Stories like Grant’s confirm the value of the program, and Laramie said its potential is limitless. She has heard from other departments within St. Luke’s that hope to implement elements into their communication with other patients, including adults.

“Every unit and area in the hospital can tailor it to what is best for them,” she said. “People continue to hear about it daily, and we are getting more inquiries from all the St. Luke’s hospitals all the time.”

Even though Laramie calls the Bluebird Program “her baby,” she’s OK with the idea of it leaving the nest, so to speak.

“It’s so satisfying to know that we’ve got all this support,” she said. “The administration is really supporting it and backing it up, systemwide.

“I think this really goes along with the vision of 2020 and the focus that (St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate) supports of creating the best patient- and family-centered care. That’s definitely our focus in the Pediatric Unit.” 

About The Author

Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.

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St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital
190 E. Bannock St.
Boise, ID 83712