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 these challenging events. The specialists:
- Offer opportunities for play and expressive activities to normalize the environment and encourage normal development
- Prepare children for medical procedures, surgery, diagnoses and treatment using language that children understand
- Introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and enhance cooperation with the health care team
- Provide support and distraction during medical procedures
- Promote family-centered care by providing information, advocacy and support to families of pediatric patients
- Provide bereavement support to families
Child Life Specialists at Wesley Children’s Hospital
Child life specialists enhance a patient’s emotional, social and cognitive growth during a hospital stay, giving special consideration to each child’s family, culture and individual stage of development.
Using developmental interventions and play, child life specialists help patients and families understand and adjust to their medical situation during a hospital stay. Child life specialists:
- Help patients develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety, separation and adjustment to the hospital experience
- Provide consultation to the health care team regarding developmental and psycho-social issues
- Provide preparation and individualized support before and after medical procedures
- Facilitate developmentally appropriate play – including medical play – at the bedside, in activity rooms and in clinic areas
- Work with siblings of patients to help them understand the hospital experience
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 or recreational therapy. Child life specialists are certified through the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and are also members of the ACLP.
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 been in the hospital.
Each child life specialist holds a bachelor or master degree in child development, psychology or a related area. Furthermore, all child life specialists have completed a child life internship in the hospital setting and are professionally certified through the national Child Life Council. Areas staffed:
- General pediatric floor
- Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
- Pediatric Ambulatory Surgery Unit/Pediatric Pre-op
- Pediatric sedation
- Pediatric dialysis
- Pediatric emergency department
- Consults in NICU and adult units
Volunteering with Pediatrics
We are always in need of enthusiastic volunteers who want to work with children in the hospital. For information on volunteering please contact our guest services department at (316) 962-2100.
Child Life Internship Program
When available, the child life internship program offers internships two times a year. The spring internship takes place from January to May, and the fall internship takes place from September to December. Wesley is currently taking applications for its fall child life internship program. Please call the child life office at (316) 962-2177 for more information.