Child Life Specialists focus on the optimal development of the whole child while promoting coping skills for hospitalization and potentially stressful experiences.

Child Life Specialists have unique education and practical experience that allows them to implement individual preparation, support, distraction and comfort strategies designed to significantly reduce the child’s anxiety and greatly increase their comfort before, during and after injections, minor procedures and routine appointments. Child Life interventions promote coping and adjustment in circumstances that might otherwise be overwhelming for the child.

Procedural Preparation & SupportMany of the experiences a child encounters in a medical setting are new and unfamiliar, resulting in fear and anxiety due to the unknown. Child Life Specialists use a variety of techniques to reduce anxiety and help children positively cope with their hospitalization.

  • Procedural preparation: Child Life Specialists provide developmentally appropriate education to help them be prepared for their hospital experience through procedural preparation books, medical play, and education on positive coping techniques.
  • Distraction: If your child’s mind is focused on something fun, they are less likely to be able to focus on potentially painful experiences like minor procedures. Child Life Specialist use age appropriate tools and techniques to provide procedural distraction to reduce anxiety and help create a positive medical experience. 
  • Medical play: Children’s lives revolve around play. They learn through play, express themselves through play and experience joy through play. Play exposes a child to new information in a comfortable, non-threatening way. Medical play is used as a teaching tool to rehearse medical procedures and diagnoses in order to identify misconceptions, promote mastery to help the child regain his or her sense of control, and allow expression of feelings. Through medical play, children have the opportunity to give voice to fears and misconceptions about their hospital experience that they may not be able to express verbally.

Siblings Having a family member in the hospital can be stressful on the whole family. Child Life Services focuses on family-centered care, providing support and services to the entire family. Siblings can experience stress and anxiety for a variety of reasons while their sibling is being hospitalized. They may fear for the well-being of their patient sibling, experience anxiety by having to adapt to a new routine such as needing to stay with other family members while their sibling is hospitalized, jealousy due to the patient sibling getting more attention from their parents and fear they may “catch” what their sibling has. Child Life Specialists can provide a variety of services to help alleviate the stress siblings may experience. Child Life can provide procedural preparation and medical play for siblings to help eliminate misconceptions and promote familiarization with the care the sibling patient needs.

Child Life Services offers a sibling program for families in the RNICU every Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. This allows siblings to visit the hospital and see where their new baby brother or sister is and interact with other children who are going through similar experiences. While siblings are completing therapeutic activities, crafts and play, both parents are able to spend quality time with their baby in the RNICU together. To participate, register your child(ren) up at the RNICU desk weekly. 

Children of Adult Patients For children of adult patients, Child Life Services can be consulted to help prepare the child to see their family member for the first time since their hospital admission or help explain a new diagnosis using age-appropriate language.