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 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 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 been in the hospital.

Our Child Life Specialists

Jenna Sauls, MS, CCLS
Pediatric Ambulatory Surgery Unit/Pediatric Pre-Op
Casey Johns, BA, CCLS
Pediatric General Inpatient Unit
Megan Gerber, BS, CCLS, CIMT
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
Emily Doyle, BSW, CCLS
Pediatric Sedations and Infusions Unit
Sarah Mueler, BS, CCLS
Pediatric Emergency Department
Courtney Famuliner, BS
Pediatric Emergency Department
Miranda Ruland, BGS, CCLS
PRN

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, or recreational therapy. Child life specialists are certified through the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and are also members of the ACLP.

Family Support

Age-specific Tips for Supporting Your Hospitalized Child

Infants (Birth-18 months)

  • Maintain a routine (sleeping and feeding schedules, etc.).
  • Bring familiar, comforting items from home.
  • Be present during potentially stressful or painful situations.
  • Provide soothing words and comforting touch to your child.
  • 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 their 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 their 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 feel.
  • Involve your child in their plan of care.
  • Encourage family and peer communication, visitation, and involvement.
  • Bring familiar activities (likes/dislikes) into their 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 feel.
  • Involve your child in their plan of care.
  • Encourage expression of emotions and validate them.
  • Acknowledge feelings regarding body image.
  • Bring familiar activities (likes/dislikes) into their hospital environment.

Apps to Turn Medical Terminology
into Kid-Friendly Language

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. For information on volunteering please contact our guest services department at (316) 962-2100.

Child Life Internship Program

Wesley’s child life internship program offers a spring internship that takes place from January to May when available. Wesley is currently taking applications for its internship program. Please call the child life office at (316) 962-2177 for more information.