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Pilot Program: “Player 2”

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A child life specialist plays games with a patient at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Photo via The Ann Arbor News | Dominic Valente

A few months ago, we put out a call in search of gamers willing to spend time with kids going through treatment at the hospital. We received an array of applications from some truly wonderful individuals, and ultimately invited five gamers to participate in a pilot program for a new initiative we call “Player 2.”

Player 2 is a new program we’re testing at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Through the program, gamers will have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through gaming in a manner that supports patients and staff within hospitals.┬áThis volunteer opportunity arose from two consistent observations we’ve made across the hospitals we currently support…

The first: many hospitals have staff who do a fantastic job of taking care of kids. But an increased presence of technology inside hospitals means there’s also a need for occasional maintenance, (whether it be fixing a broken console, or updating software) and it’s sometimes tough for hospital staff to upkeep gaming equipment in addition to their normal care-taking responsibilities. Many hospitals receive game donations, but without proper staffing to manage inventory at a mass scale, it can become difficult for tech donations to properly serve patients as intended!

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Gamers Outreach volunteers assembling a GO Kart at Seattle Children’s.

The second: hospital staff are limited in terms of how much time they’re able to dedicate to patients. Imagine a facility that has 300, 400, or even 500+ patient beds. The sheer number of patients means doctors, nurses, and child life specialists must split their time appropriately among the patients they support. As we will elaborate in later blog posts, play is an important part of being a kid (we actually think it’s an important part of being an adult too, but we digress). The prevalence of video games means young people frequently turn to games during hospitalization, but as all gamers know, it’s dangerous to go alone! There is a need for someone to ensure existing technology is properly distributed, and for patients to receive frequent morale support through socialization.

We believe Player 2 can help address both areas of need. Through Player 2, gamers will be able to assist hospital staff members with basic tech support related to interactive technology. More importantly, gamers will become pseudo “digital activity managers” by helping to distribute games to patients. Volunteers will even play games with patients who may not be able to socialize with peers or their own family (due to absence related to employment obligations).

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Professional gamer Michael “StrongSide” Cavanaugh helps a patient install Minecraft on a GO Kart.

Our initial five volunteers have just begun their first round of service within the walls of Mott. Each person was vetted through the hospital’s standard volunteer screening procedure, and has committed two semesters (approximately 5 months) of time to working with patients at the hospital. We’re excited to share the results of their effort, and plan to highlight their feedback in the coming weeks!

As gamers ourselves, we know how much more fun games can be when a friend joins the action. We hope this same joy will be cultivated through the efforts of volunteers participating in the Player 2 pilot. If successful, it’s something we hope to offer in hospitals around the country. More to come as the program develops!