What is a Child Life Specialist?
Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role helps improve patient and family care, satisfaction, and overall experience. In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically-appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.
Our staff consists of trained professionals who have either a bachelor’s or master’s degree, have completed a Child Life Internship and have successfully completed the Child Life Professional Certification Exam.
UMC Child Life Specialists:
- Prepare your child for procedures or surgeries using language that children understand
- Provide support and distraction during medical procedures
- Introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and enhance cooperation
- Help your child understand their diagnosis and treatment
- Offer legacy building (keepsakes and memories) and grief support
- Provide information, education and support for caregivers, siblings and other family members
- Offer opportunities for play, socialization and expressive activities
Our Certified Child Life Specialists provide services to:
- Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
- Pediatric Sedation Program
- Outpatient Surgery & Day Surgery
- Burn Unit
- Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic
- Consults for children of adult patients undergoing care at UMC
How We Help
Play has a vital role in promoting a child’s growth and development. It allows for self-expression, enhances the child’s ability to cope with stress, provides for a sense of control, normalizes the healthcare setting, and helps meet developmental milestones.
At UMC Children’s Hospital, we have a playroom and a teen room (for patients 10 years or older) for pediatric patients and siblings. In addition, there is a small play area located in Outpatient Surgery and the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.
Children who have been prepared for healthcare events experience less fear and anxiety and tend to adjust more effectively to future medical encounters.
Child life specialists prepare patients through the use of:
- Appropriate explanations of procedures based on the child’s age and understanding
- Techniques for coping with anxiety and stress
- Medical play to promote mastery of medical procedures using teaching dolls and medical books
Support and Coping During Procedures
Each child is unique and processes stressful events differently. When a child is allowed to choose effective coping methods for a medical procedure, it provides a sense of control during their experience.
Child life specialists guide and support children through difficult procedures utilizing a variety of techniques such as:
- Step by step explanation throughout a procedure
- Pain management techniques
- Coping methods such as deep breathing, blowing bubbles or holding a caregiver’s hand
- Positioning for comfort, which allows a caregiver to hold or sit closely alongside the child during a medical procedure. This helps the child feel secure, comforted and supported by a trusted adult.
For more information about the Child Life Department at UMC Children’s Hospital, please call 806.775.8836.