Pain Week: Meet Emily Wakefield

In honor of Pain Week, Emily Wakefield, Psy.D., Pediatric Psychologist and Medical Educator in Connecticut Children’s Division of Pediatric Psychology and Pain and Palliative Medicine, shares recent developments in the field and why she chose a career focused on pediatrics and pain management. 

Why did you decide to enter the field of pain medicine?
Chronic pain impacts so many different aspects of a child or teen’s life and it takes several approaches to help them get their life back on track.  As a pediatric psychologist, I enjoy working with families with chronic pain in close collaboration with their pain medical providers and physical therapists to develop an individualized plan for each patient and family that will help them manage their pain more effectively.  The mind-body connection is an important component in the treatment of chronic pain and this approach is valued at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, as we have the only comprehensive pediatric chronic pain clinic in the state.

What do you find most rewarding about the field?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is when a child or teen with chronic pain is able to perform an activity he or she did not think was possible when we first started working together.  Improving the quality of life for children and teens with chronic pain is the most important aspect of our treatment and it is most rewarding as a provider to celebrate small, but significant achievements along the way.

What have your patients taught you?
I really enjoy learning about what makes each patient unique.  I cannot begin to explain how many new music artists or television series my patients have shared are “in” that I had no knowledge of before.  My music interests have grown exponentially as a result.  But more than pop culture, my patients have shown great courage and perseverance in the context of their pain symptoms. That is inspiring to me.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the field of pain management?
We are seeing a trend toward non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, such as behavioral health interventions.   Our pain medicine department integrates medication as well as these non-pharmacological approaches to provide best practices in the management of pain during childhood.

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