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Child Life Specialists are experts in child development who promote effective coping for children in health care settings and other challenging environments. They promote coping through play, age-appropriate medical preparation, distraction, education and self-expression activities. They advocate for family-centered care and work in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and other members of the medical team to meet the unique needs of each child and family.

Child Life Specialists work in pediatric inpatient hospitals and often in specialty areas like emergency departments, surgical and intensive care units and outpatient areas. Child life services are increasingly being offered in other settings such as community outreach programs, private medical and dentist offices and special needs camps.

Child Life Specialists Provide:

Child Life Specialists focus on psychosocial and developmental needs of children collaborating with families and health care providers.

  • Preparation: prepare children for medical procedures or treatments using language that they understand
  • Education: developmentally appropriate explanations of diagnosis.
  • Distraction: introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and enhance cooperating with medical experiences and the healthcare team
  • Play Opportunities: offer opportunities for play and expressive activities, to encourage normal development and a sense of FUN in spite of challenging circumstances.
  • Information and Resources: to families and members of the interdisciplinary team
  • Support: promote family-centered care by providing information, advocacy and support to families confronting difficult situations.

According to the Child Life Council-Research it has shown that…

  • Children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety, and will have better long term adjustment to medical challenges.
  • Children in the hospital who engage in therapeutic play with a trained professional exhibit less emotional distress, increased cooperation, and fewer negative physiological responses.
  • Child life interventions can increase cooperation and help to reduce procedural and post-procedural pain.
  • Providing support for family members enhances psychosocial outcomes for young patients. A parent or caregiver’s behavior and anxiety levels are strongly correlated with how a child will respond to hospitalization.

What questions do you have about the role of a Child Life Specialist? Leave them in the comments below.

– Robyn

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