The month of March is all about Child Life. Child Life Specialists, that is. These men and women are often the secret ingredient to many successful pediatric departments. As we recognize these professionals this month, let’s shine the spotlight on three reasons why Child Life Specialists are so important to your facility:
- Child Life Specialists can connect with patients and their families in a special way
- They can create a sense of calm and help to reduce anxiety
- Their support can provide helpful information to YOU
Making that special connection
Child Life Specialists can employ a variety of methods to connect with children and their families in an effort to help them process traumatic events, upcoming procedures or an extended hospital stay. According to the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP), they are trained specifically in the psychosocial care of children and the developmental impact of illness, injury and hospitalization. Using different techniques through play, toys, stories and simple terms, they can begin to form a unique connection. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “Play is an essential component of a child life program and of the child life professional's role." A patient quote that was shared with the ACLP truly exhibits how Child Life Specialists can form a special bond with kids during stressful experiences, ultimately leading to a better patient experience. "It was the Child Life Specialist that helped me forget why I was there and what I was doing. It made me so happy, and I felt like a kid that had just met a nice lady with a nice dog. I didn't feel like a kid battling cancer," Luke, pediatric patient.
Child Life Specialists work with children and their parents to address their concerns, fears or anxiety they may have about a surgery, diagnosis or loss. Child Life Specialists are well-informed about various conditions and procedures and can help patients and families better understand what is happening, in a way that is easier to understand. Child Life Specialists may have simple models of medical equipment or devices that the child can touch and feel prior to a procedure so they are prepared and more comfortable with what is happening. Oftentimes, fear and concern stem from the unknown – especially with children. When extra time with the specialist, it can result in a greater sense of calm and confidence. This can ultimately lead to a greater patient experience and greater patient satisfaction overall.
Child Life Specialists usually spend time with patients in a different way than nurses or doctors do. It’s possible they could learn some new information that can assist in advocating for any special needs of the patient. In a moment of play, if a child expresses pain in a new area or exhibits overly anxious behavior, a Child Life Specialist can notify the clinicians that extra comfort, distraction or even the use of a cold spray during a minor procedure may be needed to help the patient through the procedure.
Child Life Specialists are critical to successful pediatric experiences. They provide the extra care to a population that truly needs it. Take some time, especially this month, to recognize all that your Child Life staff provides!