A what Specialist?!
Don’t worry, this is a question Child Life Specialists hear very often. A Child Life Specialist is a health care professional that works in a pediatric environment providing support for children and families. Armed with a strong background in Child Development, Child Life Specialists work amongst the multidisciplinary team to provide support for children and their families during the hard times faced with hospitalization. Still not completely sure what a Child Life Specialist does? Here’s a list of only some of the things we do:
- We help children learn about their diagnosis/upcoming procedures/upcoming tests to promote coping and reduce fear and anxiety.
- We provide opportunities for medical play so that children can gain mastery over medical equipment.
- We provide sibling support, explaining in age-appropriate language what is happening to their hospitalized brother/sister, what may be different about him/her, and what he/she is feeling.
- We are involved in traumas to provide support to the patient, if alert, keeping him/her calm and explaining what the medical team is doing or, providing support to the family, explaining different procedures and emotional support.
- We advocate for children and families, promoting patient and family centered care.
- We schedule activities and work with groups and volunteers to create a fun and age appropriate environment to decrease the effects of hospitalization and maintain a routine.
- We can help patients learn to cope with painful/invasive procedures, providing pre/post procedural support, opportunities for distraction, and guided imagery.
- We support children’s development by offering play opportunities to promote coping and normalization of the medical environment.
- We provide support for end-of-life care and bereavement for the dying child, family of the dying child, and children of the dying adult.
- We support school-reentry programs and can speak to a classroom about their returning classmate who has been away due to hospitalization.
- We support other hospital services such as music therapy, art therapy, dance therapy, pet therapy, and clown care.
A Child Life Specialist is not:
- A babysitter
- A clown
- A hospital Santa Claus to give away toys all year round
- A homework tutor
- A person to make any and every child stop crying (remember, it’s okay to cry!)
- A waitress serving toys
- An entertainer
- A handyman
- We are not “doing this while we wait to get into _______ (nursing school, med school, etc.)”
- This is not a “train on the job” type of job – it is a career for which you have to do a lot of studying for and requires a lot of experience! (See roadmap to becoming a CLS here: https://adventuresinchildlife.com/how-to-start-your-adventure-in-child-life/ )