Keeping your youngest patients happy can pose a significant challenge for you and your staff. No matter how welcoming your pediatrics unit may be, it’s just not home. Anxiety about medical procedures, coupled with the unfamiliar sights and sounds of a busy hospital, can lead to an unpleasant experience for some children. Nurses and other staff members can’t always spend as much time as they would like calming scared or anxious children, but certified child life specialists can fill the gap.
Although child life specialists have long been employed at children’s hospitals, administrators of other healthcare facilities are now realizing the value of hiring these specialists.
The Role of the Certified Child Life Specialist
Certified child life specialists help children and their families cope with a hospital stay, same-day surgery, testing or an emergency room visit. Although the services they offer vary depending on the age of the patient, specialists may:
- Explain a procedure in language appropriate for the child’s cognitive level
- Discuss fears and concerns
- Use dolls, stuffed animals and medical equipment to demonstrate what will happen during a procedure
- Provide support and education for parents and siblings
- Play games with children and organize age-appropriate activities
- Help children develop coping plans
- Offer pre-admission tours
- Consult with other doctors, nurses, social workers and other team members to ensure the needs of patients and their families are being met
- Coordinate holiday celebrations, special events, donations and volunteer training
- Use art, education, movies and music to engage patients
How Can a Child Life Specialist Improve Patient Satisfaction?
Child life specialists play a key role in ensuring that children and their parents have a positive experience at your hospital. One of the most important aspects of patient-centered care is ensuring that the needs of all patients, including special groups, are being fulfilled. Recognizing that children have specific needs, and creating programs that support young patients during a hospital visit, offers many benefits.
In addition to helping increase HCAHPS scores, spending extra time with children reduces anxiety. Researchers noticed a significant decrease in anxiety rates among children who worked with child life specialists prior to surgery, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.
Visits from child life specialists also improve productivity, notes Dr. Rahul Shah in a Kaiser Health News article. Shah, of Children’s National Medical Center, reports that pre-surgery visits from child life specialists calm young patients, shaving precious minutes from the total time a patient spends in surgery. Over the course of a day, this time savings can open up availability for an additional procedure.
What Qualifications Are Important When Hiring a Child Life Specialist?
When selecting candidates, it’s important to look for child life specialists who have been certified by the Child Life Council. To receive certification, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, complete a minimum 480-hour clinical internship under the supervision of a certified child life specialist and pass a national certifying examination.
Certified child life specialists offer valuable and special skills that will help you meet the needs of your young patients. Adding these professionals to your staff is sure to enhance your team’s ability to provide quality, compassionate, patient-centered healthcare services.
One of the best ways to increase patient satisfaction is to focus on patient comfort. Download our Nurses’ Guide to Positively Impacting HCAHPS Scores to discover what affects scores the most.