What is a Child Life Specialist?
It is every parent’s nightmare to learn that their child has been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. But many children spend extended periods in hospitals each year. While growing up in a hospital setting is far from ideal, child life specialists are trained professionals who work to make the experience as positive as possible. Child life specialists work closely with children and families in medical settings, serving as emotional support and developing family coping strategies. With a background in child development, psychology, and counseling, child life specialists help explain medical jargon to kids and prepare them for procedures. They help prepare children for medical treatments with age-appropriate play skills. They also provide pain management and coping strategies into play with self-expression activities. They give information, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. While most child life programs exist in hospitals with large pediatric departments, child life specialists work in many settings to provide the best care possible for children and families. For example, St. Jude’s child life program allows the child life specialist to travel to the child’s school and give a presentation to their peers about their illness and time in the hospital. Other child life specialists work specifically in one hospital department.