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Child Life Specialists

What are Child Life Specialists?

Child Life Specialists are bachelor’s or master’s prepared professionals who work with pediatric patients in the outpatient clinic, in the inpatient unit, in the ICU, in the operating rooms/recovery rooms, as well as other diagnostic areas in the hospital. Through a variety of interventions, Child Life Specialists help children to understand what is going to happen while they are in the hospital, work with patients to explore their feelings/fears about their diagnosis and treatment, and help to develop social support that aids in coping.

How do they interact and help pediatric patients?

Child Life Specialists meet children on their own “territory”, usually inviting them into the playroom in the clinic or hospital during their visit. During this initial meeting, the Child Life Specialist (CLS) can assess the child’s understanding of their visit to the Children's Cancer Hospital, explore what their past medical history has been, and also get an idea of how the child copes with medical procedures. Imagine how welcoming it would be for these patients, in a strange and scary environment, to be invited into a familiar place with toys, play dough, paints and games. It is during this kind of interaction the CLS begins to develop a relationship of trust with the patient and their family. Later, when the patient goes for a blood draw, a bone marrow aspiration or some other invasive procedure, the CLS can be there for support. Patients often find that a familiar face is comforting in the hospital environment.

What does the Child Life Specialist do for adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients?

We recognize that a playroom is not always the most inviting space for teens or young adults! We have an Adolescent and Young Adult CLS dedicated to this patient population. This CLS talks to AYA patients about their favorite activity, music, sports or whatever they find important in their life. The CLS is comfortable interacting with this age group and their often unique kind of communication. We have an AYA space specifically dedicated to typical AYA activities, and we help this group to understand and network with others their age, just like them, here in the hospital. 

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