Certified child life specialists are educated and trained in the developmental and psychological impact of illness and injury. They work in partnership with families, doctors, nurses, social workers and other members of the care team to meet the social and emotional needs of patients and their family members. They provide services to hospitalized inpatients and those receiving outpatient care to support with the stress and uncertainty of surgery, procedures and hospitalization.
A child life specialist may work with a child on medication compliance to support discharge or engage in medical play and education to help a child understand and cope with a new diagnosis. They may support siblings of a child who has died, helping them to understand and say good-bye. They may provide guidance for parents who wish to support a teen’s emerging desire for independence. They may provide age-appropriate preparation for tests, procedures or surgery while developing a plan to support effective coping and mastery. Every day, they offer opportunities for children to play and engage in preferred activities, express emotions in a healthy way and master the many challenges associated with health care experiences.
Child life specialists partner closely with family members to tailor interventions to best meet each child’s individual needs, providing:
Preparation before surgery, exams or other potentially anxiety-provoking experiences by using age-appropriate language, visual aids and other teaching materials to decrease stress and enhance understanding
Medical play with dolls, and real and pretend medical equipment to clarify misconceptions and promote understanding
Coaching for comfort, including use of comfort positions, guided imagery and relaxed breathing exercises
Support during procedures by encouraging identification and use of coping tools and techniques
Opportunities for emotional expression by encouraging patients to work through their feelings through play, discussion, arts, crafts, music and other forms of expression
Developmental play and access to leisure-based activities to normalize the hospital environment and create opportunities for social support
Sibling support to help brothers and sisters better understand what is happening
Legacy building opportunities and bereavement care and support
Child life services are provided for pediatric patients and their families at the La Crosse campus and Sparta Day Surgery. Patients and families can request child life services by contacting any member of the health care team.
Donations to the Child Life Program are always welcome and greatly appreciated. Email email@example.com with your interest and include as many specifics as possible about your donation. Note: Donated toys, games, puzzles, books and stuffed animals need to be new, unused and recently purchased. For suggestions, view the Child Life Program wish list on Amazon.