Meet Molly: Positive Image Consultant

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Best Job
Ever? Positive Image Consultant!

While attending cosmetology school nearly two decades ago, it never crossed my mind that someday I would be able to apply the skills I was acquiring to help children in a hospital setting. Most likely, the reason it hadn’t occurred to me is because it is extremely rare that cosmetology services are offered in a pediatric hospital. The Positive Image Center is a hidden gem on the second floor of American Family Children’s Hospital, known as the only hospital-based salon of its kind geared specifically to children.

What does a
Positive Image Consultant do?
I get asked this question a lot! My focus is on helping ease a patient’s anxiety
about their hospitalization, especially when it involves appearance-altering
illnesses or procedures. Every time I explain my role, people immediately think
of patients who lose their hair due to chemotherapy. Hair loss is often one of
the most salient thoughts for newly diagnosed cancer patients, especially children
and teens. Every patient handles hair loss in their own way. Some patients are
eager to take control and will shave their head before they lose any hair,
while others request several haircuts to slowly reduce their hair length. While
at the hospital, patients can be fitted for wigs that are provided to them at
no cost and arrive quickly. Inspired by a patient’s request, I have been making
“ponytail hats” -hats with human hair attached at the crown- which can be more
comfortable for patients that don’t want to wear a wig every day but like the
feeling of a long ponytail. The Positive Image Center has many donated hats,
scarves, bandannas, partial wigs and other head coverings that patients can
choose. While we have many resources and options to help patients cope with
hair loss, it can still be one of their most difficult experiences. Above all,
I strive to validate their feelings and empathize with their loss. A piece of
my heart breaks with each patient who struggles with losing their hair, but nothing
compares to sharing in their excitement when their hair is growing back!

Other than
working with patients experiencing hair loss, a large majority of my time is
spent visiting patients to provide services in their hospital room. I like to encourage
patients to visit me in the Positive Image Center, but it is not always
possible for them to leave their room. Luckily, I can go to them and provide
services at bedside! I often visit patients whose hair has become very tangled,
and/or need EEG lead glue removed. Detangling can take hours, but it is
remarkable what a little (or a lot) of leave-in conditioner, a wide tooth comb
and some determination can do! I also receive requests for haircuts,
hairstyling, nail painting and shaping, as well as fun temporary tattoos, hair
colors, or sparkles. These services ensure a patient’s hair and nails are clean
and trimmed, and I love seeing the patient’s outlook improve because they feel
proud of their new look.

Another part
of my position is something many people may not realize. While many of us think
of receiving salon services as enjoyable luxury, for some people it can be
quite the opposite experience. For many children and families, visiting a salon
can be a daunting struggle. I serve patients who have trouble visiting a salon
due to accessibility or infection control issues. For children with sensory sensitivities
or developmental differences, haircuts can be a traumatic experience. In the
Positive Image Center, I can alter the lighting, play favorite music or videos,
and invite Child Life Specialists to join us to provide support. It is my goal to
prepare each patient, so they can be comfortable with haircuts and with visiting
a salon, and to empower the child’s caregivers by finding the best ways to
support their child during salon services. 

While there
are many services offered through the Positive Image Center, above all my goal
is to support patients in a way that best responds to their emotional needs and
desires. How we feel about our appearance can have a great impact on our overall
health. I am so excited that the Positive Image Center is here to support our
patients and the medical staff and parents that advocate for children to
receive these services. After experiencing health issues and hospitalization
with my own children, I know what it is like to be on the patient and parent
side. I aim to treat each patient as if they were my own family member, and I
could not be more grateful for the patients and families that I get to work
with every day.

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