Child Life Specialists

Child Life Specialists


All child life specialists hold advanced-degree training in the growth and development of children and help families and patients cope effectively with hospitalization. Often times the fear of the unknown is the biggest challenge for patients and families.  Child life specialists provide age-appropriate information to help children cope with the hospital and prepare them emotionally for invasive procedures and surgery.

Child life specialists provide play opportunities at bedside as well as in the playroom setting.  In addition, child life specialists work to provide services to the whole family unit and not just the patient. They strive to make sure the parents, siblings and patient all have an understanding of the plan of care.

A Child Life Specialist provides:

  • Age-appropriate preparation for procedures & treatments
  • Procedural support and alternative focus
  • Age-appropriate diagnosis teaching
  • Grief/bereavement/trauma debriefing resources
  • Support for patients’ siblings and family
  • Collaboration for optimal patient- and family-centered care
  • Therapeutic play opportunities

Notable Interventions

Medical play

Medical Play is an intervention used by child life specialists to bring together the ideas of developmentally appropriate preparation and play. Medical play allows patients to touch and manipulate actual medical equipment to gain control and desensitize items they may see used on their body.

Psychological preparation for surgery and admissions

Child life specialists are able to meet with patients and families prior to scheduled surgeries and procedures to provide developmentally appropriate preparation. This allows children the opportunity to gain an understanding of their plan of care as well as to work through any fears or misconceptions they may have.

School re-entry

Returning to school after receiving a new diagnosis or even being inpatient for an extended hospitalization can be a challenge. Child life specialists can help in the transition by providing a school visit to educate peers and classmates. Child life can bring the medical dolls and resources used in the hospital to help provide an age appropriate explanation and answer questions.