Caring for our youngest patients
Hospitals can be frightening and overwhelming for anyone, but for children, medical settings can cause additional stress due to the unfamiliar environment, the number of new people they meet, and the often urgent nature of being a patient. Certified Child Life Specialists are part of a multidisciplinary team that specializes in helping children and their families navigate, cope with, and feel prepared for hospital experiences.
What is a Certified Child Life Specialist?
Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role is to improve patient and family care, satisfaction, and overall experience.
Infants, children, and adolescents may interpret a wide variety of healthcare experiences as stressful and potentially traumatic events, which can impact their ability to cope. This can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control, and isolation that can inhibit their development as well as have negative effects on their physical and emotional health and well-being.
In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, adolescents, 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.
Child Life Specialists provide services in multiple areas of the hospital:
Pediatric Emergency and Inpatient Unit (7 days per week, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.):
- Explain what to expect in an emergency and/or inpatient setting to children and their caregivers.
- Provide developmentally appropriate information and exploration of coping strategies for upcoming procedures and other medical experiences.
- Offer play opportunities to normalize and facilitate adjustment to hospital settings and allow children to express their emotions and ask questions.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (3 days per week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.):
- Educate families on ways to bond with their infant in a NICU setting.
- Familiarize siblings with the NICU environment and give opportunities for them to express their feelings and ask questions.
- Provide developmentally appropriate stimulation, positive touch, and play for infants to promote brain, muscle, and social/emotional development.
- Support infants during procedures by incorporating non-pharmacological interventions for pain management and caregiver support when appropriate.
Women's and Outpatient Surgical Center (2 days per week, 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.):
- Connect with caregivers prior to the day of surgery to provide resources and discuss ways to deliver developmentally appropriate preparation for children with an upcoming surgery. When appropriate, offer pre-surgery tours (virtually or in-person) to help children and families visualize the environment and perioperative experience. To schedule a pre-surgery tour, contact the Child Life Program at 443-849-3808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Provide day-of surgery support with information about what to expect and exploration of coping strategies.
- Allow children to have a hands-on play-based experience with real medical supplies to gain control and “be the doctor” for a stuffed animal or doll.
- Clarify misconceptions and answer questions of older children and teens through conversation and pictures of the process.
- Prepare patients and caregivers for the post-operative transition to home or to the inpatient unit.
Making the Hospital Less Scary for Kids
Hear from Jennifer Seiler, MED, CCLS, about how Child Life Specialists help families and what parents can do to be effective advocates for their children.Watch here
Ways to Support Child Life Program at GBMC
- Monetary Donation: The Child Life Program illustrates how GBMC is fulfilling its mission – to every patient, every time, we will provide the care that we would want for our own loved ones – by having a program specifically designed to support the diverse and individual needs of the pediatric population while embracing the concepts of patient- and family-centered care. Our goal is to have our young patients and families leave our hospital remembering only the compassion, comfort, and personalized experience. The Child Life Program does not charge for its services; it is fully funded through philanthropy. Help us endow this program to assure we can provide this special advocacy to each child, every time. To support this program for children and families in your community, click here or contact GBMC Philanthropy at 443-849-2773 or email@example.com to donate.
- Resource Donation: Often, hospitalizations are not planned, and parents do not have the opportunity to bring items to comfort their child with them. Ensuring the Child Life Program has resources such as art supplies, games, technology, and toys helps make sure children are as comfortable in the hospital setting as possible. Please visit the Child Life Amazon Wishlist for the most utilized and needed resources.
- Program Feedback: The Child Life Program can only meet the needs of patients and families if we hear your feedback. Please share your experience working with a Certified Child Life Specialist at GBMC by filling out our feedback form.
- Volunteering: Child Life volunteers assist Child Life Specialists by engaging patients in play at their bedsides, maintaining safe play equipment by cleaning toys and resources, and helping with special projects and/or events that happen within the hospital setting. If interested, please contact Volunteer Services to learn more. (Volunteer opportunities are dependent on COVID-19 precautions).
Jennifer Seiler, M.Ed., CCLS
Senior Certified Child Life Specialist