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What is Child Life?
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What is Child Life?

The goal of the Child Life Program is to provide an environment where children can gain a better understanding of the hospital and medical treatments. Child Life specialists accomplish this with a variety of techniques.

Children's Play
Children learn and process new information through play. Child Life specialists understand this need to play, especially when a child is in a new, unfamiliar environment, such as the hospital. Children are encouraged to participate in normal play activities and peer interactions and the pediatric playroom and adolescent activity room. Art activities and games are offered daily. The Child Life Program also provides opportunities for expressive play to encourage children and teens to share their feelings about being in the hospital.

Medical Play and Preparation
Child Life specialists provide hands-on play opportunities and explanations using medical dolls and equipment to teach children about their illness and other hospital experiences. Medical play is also used to prepare children for procedures such as an IV insertion or blood draw. Medical play helps clear up any misunderstanding about illness or procedures and gives children and teens a sense of control.

Positive Coping
The hospital can be a stressful place and coping with a procedure or diagnosis can be difficult. Child Life specialists support children and teens during scary, and sometimes painful, procedures by teaching coping strategies. These strategies include blowing bubbles, holding hands, relaxation and imagery. Child Life specialists are able to be with children during procedures to focus solely on their emotional needs.

Parents and Families
The family is an important part of a child's healing process. Child Life specialists provide support to parents, including sharing information on development and ideas for helping children cope with their hospitalization. Child Life specialists also provide emotional support to the siblings of pediatric and adolescent patients.

Special Events
Child Life specialists supervise many special events for children and teens in the hospital. These include a weekly pet therapy program, birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations, visits from community members and a playroom volunteer program.

Responsibilities Typical of a Child Life Specialist:

  • Non-medical preparation for tests, surgeries, and other medical procedures
  • Support during medical procedures
  • Therapeutic medical play using special dolls, stuffed animals and medical equipment
  • Activities to continue normal growth and development of infants, children and adolescents in hospital patient rooms and/or activity areas
  • Sibling support
  • Support for grief and bereavement issues
  • Emergency room interventions
  • Hospital pre-admission tours and information
  • Outpatient consultation with families
  • Collaboration with various pediatric therapies
  • Support hospital school programs
  • Supervision and education of students in child life
  • Orientation, training, and supervision of volunteers, including pet therapy programs
  • Coordination of special events, holiday celebrations, entertainment, and donations
  • Education for the community on the needs of children and their families

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