Workshop – More Smiles, Fewer Tears: Adaptable Child Life Strategies to Improve the Patient Experience


Presentation Description:
This interactive workshop will identify common fears and anxieties children face during cancer treatment and highlight strategies and hands-on tools used to support these patients and families to enhance coping in a satellite setting.

Ruth Cull (Molly Penny), Therapeutic Clown
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, ON

As a registered practical nurse working in the operating room at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Ruth Cull would sometimes clown around on the job, but she never imagined that one day clowning around would be her job! In 2001, Ruth went off to the University of Wisconsin’s clown school where she successfully graduated as a clown.

Back at CHEO, Ruth discovered the inherent power of a clown’s red nose to make kids, families and staff laugh. For the next four years, Ruth worked in the operating room two days a week as an OR tech, and in the Child Life Program three days as “Molly Penny,” therapeutic clown. Ruth now dedicates her  time to working only in the therapeutic clown program three  days a week where her medical background comes in handy when taking kids on “Clown Rounds,” and when working with staff, and medical, pharmacy and psychology students to raise awareness and understanding of the therapeutic clown program.

Alexandra Frankel, BSc, CLSt Dipl, CCLS

Certified Child Life Specialist, Scarborough and Rouge Hospital, Centenary Site, Scarborough, ON
Alexandra Frankel completed both her undergraduate and professional education at McMaster University. Alexandra is currently working as a certified child life specialist at the Scarborough and Rouge Hospital (SRH), Centenary Site and in the Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital. At the SRH, Alexandra provides child life services to children in various areas of the hospital including the POGO Satellite Oncology Clinic. She leads the pediatric pain-working group and is a member of the pediatric palliative care committee. Alexandra has had a longtime clinical interest in working with pediatric oncology patients and families in a psychosocial capacity. She has been involved with Camp Oochigeas in a volunteer role for the past 11 years.

Todd Wharton, CRPO, OATA, CACPT
Registered Psychotherapist; Registered Art Therapist; Certified Play Therapy Assistant, Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, London, ON

Todd Wharton has been practicing in the field of child and youth mental health for over 30 years, with over 20 years as an art therapist. He has been providing assessment and treatment in a variety of settings and modalities throughout Children’s Hospital, both in medical and mental health areas. The practice of art and play therapy offers a unique approach in being able to provide services to all ages as an alternative to the traditional “talk therapies.” Having been employed at Children’s Hospital for 18 years, Todd has utilized both conventional and sometimes rather unusual and fun approaches to connect with children and youth to provide them the opportunity to explore and express their concerns regarding the impact of their diagnoses and treatment. Working at Children’s Hospital provides the flexibility of allowing children and youth to direct their involvement in their own healing processes.

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