By Kelly Lyons, Child Life supervisor
You’ve probably seen them around. They’re usually wearing something purple and helping kids or providing support for families.
They are our Child Life staff.
It may appear as if they are just playing with kids up on the 3rd floor of Mission Hospital, but there’s a lot more going on there – and other places, too – than meets the eye.
Child Life Specialists are experts in child development, and they promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities with children. They also provide emotional support for families and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences related to healthcare and hospitalization.
Child Life Specialists first assess the unique needs of each patient and family they meet, which enables the specialist to offer individualized psychosocial support and interventions. Understanding that a child’s well-being depends on the support of the family, a Child Life Specialist also provides information and guidance to parents, siblings and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers about the needs of a child who may be under stress from their medical condition.
Mission is the only hospital in the area to have Certified Child Life Specialists. These members of our staff are certified by a national organization called the Association of Child Life Professionals. You’ll find Child Life Specialists throughout the hospital in areas such as the NICU, PICU, Cancer Center, Surgical Services, Reuter’s Outpatient and Pediatrics. While the aim of each Child Life intervention is to alleviate anxiety and even promote a sense of fun during challenging circumstances, the delivery looks a little different in each clinical area.
Child Life Activities
- You might find a Child Life Specialist in surgical services providing a preop surgery tour where the patient and family are able to familiarize themselves with the different rooms, staff members and medical equipment that they will see on the day of their actual surgery. It’s possible that you would witness the tour concluding with an anesthesia mask being used as a bubble wand to see who can blow the biggest bubble!
- On the Pediatric floor, a patient can create a hospital “I don’t like…” target, where they write words like IV on paper with a marker, squirt the word with a syringe and watch the stressor fade away.
- Travel to the Cancer Center, and children can create blood soup (made with syrup and red, yellow and white candies). During this activity children learn about the different types of blood cells and the specific job of each.
- Stopping next at Reuter Outpatient Clinics, there is a child-size MRI table and a CD with MRI sounds. With the guidance of a Child Life Specialist, children explore the donut-shaped machine and sometimes determine that they can complete the procedure without any sedation because they now know exactly what to expect.
The Child Life staff is an important part of the multidisciplinary team, who they partner with every day to give a child the best possible experience.
Mission Hospital is the only hospital in WNC to have Certified Child Life Specialists. They are certified by an international organization called the Child Life Council.