Child Life Specialists Help Patients and Families Cope with Hospital Experience

Our child life specialists play a critical role as part of a patient’s healthcare team. A child life specialist is a trained professional who helps children and their families understand and normalize the hospital environment. They are skilled at providing developmentally appropriate support, preparation and therapeutic play opportunities to decrease anxieties associated with being in the hospital.

To celebrate Child Life Month, here’s a look at several of our child life specialists and the role they play in the patient’s hospital experience.

One way our child life specialists, like Lefkofsky Pediatric Intensive Care Unit specialist Megan, help normalize the hospital experience for kids and their families is through medical play. By using specially adapted dolls, as well as real and pretend medical equipment, medical play enhances the understanding and clarifies misconceptions of a patient’s medical environment.

Becca Mistos, Child Life Specialist for Surgical Services, helps kids pre and post-surgery. Wearing the anesthesia mask is often one of the many big concerns for children of all ages coming in for surgery. Becca says, “Taking medical equipment (the mask) that can be threatening and scary to children and using it in a way that makes it playful, silly and even a little bit fun (blowing bubbles with it) helps minimize anxiety, promote a child’s sense of control and understanding, and encourage cooperative behavior when the time comes to use the mask in a medical setting.

As members of a child’s healthcare team, our child life specialists, like Amanda from Inpatient 21, are part of daily meetings with members of the care team. Child life specialists consult with physicians, nurses, case managers and other members of a medical team.

“Play is the work of children,” says Joe Weismantel, Child Life Specialist for the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit. “So many of our patients are on the cusp of so many milestones so through play, it helps them develop muscles and not regress when they are in the hospital for long stays.” 

Many of the volunteers at Lurie Children’s (even our Rainbow Therapy Dog volunteers) are supervised by child life specialists. These volunteers help to extend the reach of our child life services by delivering toys, providing diversion during long hospital stays or appointments as well as opportunities for normal play.

Lurie Children’s has child life specialists located at our main hospital and also at our outpatient satellite locations (Westchester and Clark/Deming) who are there to help your child understand their diagnosis or procedure in an age-appropriate way. Katy is one of our child life specialists in our Kenneth & Anne Griffin Emergency Care Center. She’s there to help kids cope with visits to our ER which are often times unexpected. Much of her work in the ER is to provide support to patients and families during procedures. 

During a Behavior and Development rotation, our resident physicians spend time with our child life specialists including Sara Stewart, Child Life Specialist for Inpatient 17. They shadow our specialists to learn different age-appropriate techniques and approaches when speaking and caring for a child. 

Child Life Specialists at Lurie Children’s are largely supported by philanthropy. Make a gift in support of Child Life.

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