Benefits of Child Life Programs

Staying at the hospital can be scary and unfamiliar for anyone, but especially so for kids. University Health has a team of Child Life specialists who are dedicated to helping children cope with medical experiences. These trained specialists provide developmentally appropriate and supportive care for pediatric patients to minimize the stress of medical experiences.

“We help the families not only understand what's going on and what to expect, but also empower them to help their child through this experience,” said Monica Gibson, Child Life services coordinator at University Health.

Services Provided by Child Life Specialists

Child Life specialists help children and their families in a number of capacities, from helping a child understand a procedure to helping a family cope with the grief of losing a child. They offer a variety of services, including:

  • Help kids understand a procedure, surgery or life-altering diagnosis in an age-appropriate way
  • Provide end of life support
  • Host special events like holiday parties and parades
  • Advocate on behalf of kids to the rest of their care team
  • Contribute to overall care plan and strategy
  • Perform psychosocial assessments
  • Engage patient’s family and promote family-centered care

“We prepare patients prior to their procedure or medical experience, and then we provide support during that actual procedure,” Gibson said. “We explain it to them in age-appropriate terms, and then we’re their relaxation and their comfort during the procedure. We emotionally support the family throughout the medical experience. We also provide end of life support and grief resources when children die in our hospital.”

Normalizing their Hospital Experience

On the other hand, Child Life specialists help create a fun environment for inpatients who might otherwise miss special events at school or at home.

“Besides our medical based interventions, we do all the normalization,” Gibson said. “We play, we provide special events for Christmas and Halloween, and provide experiences and events that they would be celebrating in their home or school.”

Child Life Center

To advance the mission of Child Life specialists, University Health has opened the Hope Hits Harder Child Life Center at the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital. A stay in the hospital can be scary, but this kid-friendly center offers young patients a chance to have fun and learn about their procedures, reducing fear and giving them a sense of control. 

Kids can play games, create crafts and enjoy live theatrical performances. Within the center, a medical playroom contains child-sized equipment giving children an opportunity to learn about medical procedures through therapeutic play experiences. 


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