Pediatric gaming specialist helps kids cope at children’s hospital

When Tristan Cline saw an online ad asking for help seeking the child’s play technology specialist position at Logan Health Children’s in Kalispell, he knew he had landed his dream job.

Now, just over three months after taking the position, Cline still feels the same about it.

“It was the craziest thing in the world. This is what I loved to do at home and this was a chance to do it for a living. It was a one in a million chance,” he said. “I still feel like I’m dreaming every day when I come to this job.”

A gamer from a young age, Cline broke his teeth into the world of video games with Super Mario Bros. 2 on the original Nintendo Entertainment System he received for Christmas in 1988. Gaming has been a big part of his life ever since.

Cline continued to carry his passion for gaming with him as he pursued his childhood dream of becoming a police officer and even found a way to use video games to alleviate stressful situations during his time as a California patrol and school counselor.

“It was a way of helping children get their minds out of the traumatic situation they were in. I could play a game with a child when their mind is not focused on the situation around them. The bad situation can disappear for just a little while,” Cline said. “That’s what we’re trying to do at the hospital. It’s not a fun experience being in the hospital, so if I can be a fun getaway or distraction, even for just a few minutes, that’s what I want to do. “

WHEN CLINE was forced to retire from the police force after being shot while on duty in 2017, he made the decision to move to the Flathead Valley with his wife, Courtney, and children Andrew, 9, Mackenzie, 7, and Madelyn, 5 .

Again, gaming helped with the transition.

“I had a lot of catching up to do with my kids, as I had always worked before that,” he said. “We started playing video games together and that’s what we used to reconnect. It’s another reason why gaming has such a special place in my life.”

Cline spent the better part of a year adjusting to his new life in Montana and reconnecting with his family, but when he learned that a grant from Child’s Play Charity had helped Logan Health establish a specialist position in the field of pediatric game technology in the children’s hospital, he felt he was the right man for the job.

Logan Health couldn’t have agreed more.

“We thought our hospital was too small and Child’s Play wouldn’t be able to fund this feature for us. This is a feature you find in the larger children’s hospitals across the country, so we were thrilled to find out that our grant had gone ahead,” said Carly Rickard, chief development officer of Logan Health Children’s. “We felt Tristan was our unicorn for this position as soon as we got his application. We knew right away that he was the right man for the job and we were very excited to hire him as part of our team.”

LOGAN HEALTH The partnership with Child’s Play began in 2019 when the charity funded therapeutic and recreational technology for the new facility for children, including MRI glasses, 12 Xbox consoles with adaptive controllers and two sets of virtual reality glasses. This was the first time in the charity’s history that it could set up a children’s hospital from the day its doors opened.

Just two years later, Child’s Play has supported Logan Health Children’s with more than $130,000 in annual gifts, grants and in-kind donations of technology and games.

With an office equipped with Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation consoles, as well as a collection of mobile game carts, Cline is ready to make every child’s time in the hospital as easy as possible.

“We can bring a little bit of home here to make kids feel more at ease. Every day I feel like I’m really making a difference,” Cline said. “There are a lot of things in the hospital that aren’t fun, so if I can give these kids some fun, I’m going to do it. That’s what this job is all about.

“Every day is exciting and every day I wake up with a smile on my face,” Cline said. ‘It is awesome. What more can I say?’

Reporter Jeremy Weber can be reached at 406-758-4446 or jweber@dailyinterlake.com.

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