Hospitalization and illness are stressful moments in the lives of children, adolescents and their families. Child life specialists are trained professionals who work as a part of the medical team to promote child development, positive learning and mastery over the challenging events that come with being in the hospital environment. Child life specialists also enhance a patient’s emotional, social and cognitive growth during a hospital stay, considering each child’s family, culture and individual stage of development.

Child life specialists

  • Offer opportunities for play and expressive activities to normalize the environment and encourage normal development.
  • Use developmental interventions and medical play to help patients and families understand and adjust to their medical situations.
  • Prepare and provide support for children before and after medical procedures, surgeries, diagnoses and treatments using language that children understand.
  • Help patients develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety, separation and adjustment to the hospital experience.
  • Promote family-centered care by providing information, advocacy and support to families of pediatric patients.
  • Work with siblings of patients to help them understand the hospital experience.
  • Provide bereavement support to families.
  • Respond to consults for children in the NICU and adult units.

Child life specialists are also available to help families with questions that may arise about a child’s behavior and adjustment to home or school after they have left the hospital.

Our child life specialists

Miranda Ruland, B.S.-CCLS
PRN

Sarah Meurer, B.S.-CCLS
Pediatric Emergency/Trauma

Casey Carr, B.S.-CCLS
Pediatric ASU/Child Life Coordinator

Courtney Famuliner, B.A.-CCLS
Pediatric Emergency/Trauma

Emily Doyle, B.A.-CCLS
Pediatric Sedation/Infusion

Megan Gerber, B.S.-CCLS
Pediatric ICU

Jordan Lumpley, B.M.T
MT-BC (Music Therapist)

Professional qualifications

As professionals trained to work with children in medical settings, each specialist holds a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the areas of child life, child development, special education, recreational therapy, family studies or psychology. Child Life Specialists are held to a professional and ethical standard through the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and hold their certification and license with the ACLP.

Family support

Age-specific tips for supporting your hospitalized child:

Infants (Birth – 18 months)

  • Maintain a routine (sleeping, feeding, etc.)
  • Bring familiar, comforting items from home
  • Be present and involved during potentially stressful or painful situations
  • Provide soothing words and comforting touch
  • Provide stimulation to assist them in continuing to explore their environment
  • Bring play into their hospital environment

Toddlers (18 months – 3 years)

  • Maintain a routine
  • Bring familiar, comforting items from home
  • Be present and involved during potentially stressful or painful situations
  • Provide soothing words and comforting touch
  • Offer realistic choices when available
  • Bring play into the hospital environment

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

  • Maintain a routine
  • Bring familiar, comforting items from home
  • Be present and involved during potentially stressful or painful situations
  • Provide extra care and comfort
  • Offer realistic choices when available
  • Bring play into the hospital environment
  • Be open and honest as to what will happen and provide simple descriptions about how it will sound and feel

School age (5-12 years)

  • Offer realistic choices
  • Bring familiar, comforting items from home
  • Be present and involved during potentially stressful or painful situations
  • Be open and honest as to what will happen and how it will sound and feel
  • Involve your child in their plan of care
  • Encourage family and peer communication, visitation and involvement
  • Bring familiar activities (likes/dislikes) into the hospital environment

Adolescents (12-18 years)

  • Create and follow a daily schedule
  • Encourage visitation from peers and loved ones
  • Respect choices of privacy
  • Be present and involved during potentially stressful or painful situations
  • Be open and honest as to what will happen and how it will sound and feel
  • Involve your child in their plan of care
  • Encourage expression of emotion and validate them
  • Acknowledge feelings regarding body image
  • Bring familiar activities (likes/dislikes) into the hospital environment

Apps that turn medical terminology into kid-friendly language

Simply Sayin’ – Medical Jargon for Kids

Simply Sayin’TM – Medical Jargon for Kids

This free app is available in the Apple and Android app stores.

KidSpeak™ – Medical Preps for Kids

KidSpeak™ – Medical Preps for Kids

This free app is available in the Apple and Android app stores.

Playrooms

  • General inpatient pediatrics unit playroom
  • General inpatient pediatrics teen lounge
  • Sedations and infusions unit playroom
  • Pediatric ambulatory surgery unit/pediatric pre-op playroom

Volunteering with pediatrics

We are always in need of enthusiastic volunteers who want to work with children in the hospital. Volunteers help with daily playroom activities, taking activities to the bedside, special events/projects and cleaning toys. For information on volunteering, please contact our guest services department at (316) 962-2100.

Child life internship program

The Wesley Children’s Hospital Internship Program is offered once a year during the spring semester. Our internship follows all the guidelines/requirements of the ACLP, and we accept up to two interns per semester. Please reach out with any questions to Megan Gerber or Casey Carr.

Resources