At Wolfson Children's Hospital, Child Life specialists are part of the health care team. They are trained to understand and meet the unique needs of children in the hospital.
Child Life specialists have special training and experience in understanding children's reactions to illness and being in the hospital. They use these skills to encourage emotional well-being and normal development while your child is in the hospital.
Child life specialists can help ease fears and help children understand what's happening through play, education and support. To help kids cope, child life specialists encourage children to engage in normal activities to help relieve the sometimes unpleasant parts of health care. Play helps develop a sense of mastery and control over some aspects of the hospital. Through play, children develop physically and socially and are also able to talk with others and express emotions.
A child's fear of a procedure can be lessened by giving just the right amount of information based on the child's age and situation. This can also help parents become more familiar with the procedure. Dolls and picture books are sometimes used to tell children about procedures and surgery. If kids know what to expect, they may be less scared and better able to cooperate. For example, there are many things adults can do to prepare a young patient for one of the common medical procedures, drawing blood for lab work. A program called MR-I Am Ready! helps children 6-11 have non-sedated MRIs with the help of special techniques, including practice and preparation before the procedure. Sedation comes with some risks, so it's a benefit to patients to have their scans without the use of anesthesia when possible.
Child Life specialists can help reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures. This is done by using distraction and deep breathing.
Children are encouraged to play with medical equipment to become more familiar and comfortable with things they will see. Medical play allows children to express their feelings and concerns and helps the Child Life specialist correct any confusion the child may have about a procedure or being in the hospital. Medical play can help build confidence in the child's ability to cope with the situation.
Child Life specialists use play, arts and crafts, games and cooking to help patients understand and cope better with the often overwhelming setting of the hospital. These familiar activities help make the hospital more normal and provide a way to socialize, explore and express feelings. Giving children choices in play and allowing them to participate in their care is important since they don't have many chances to make decisions while in the hospital.
Our playrooms offer toys, games, arts and crafts, medical play and more. No painful or stressful treatments are done in these areas in order to give children a "safe" place to play.
The teen room is for patients 11 years or older. Teens can listen to music, play video games, board games, air hockey and socialize with other teens.
The Jaguars Den includes translucent screens hanging on the walls and lighting that changes colors. The main attractions are several XBox 360 video game consoles and personal computers with video conferencing capabilities that make it possible for children at Wolfson to communicate with patients in other children's hospitals, friends, family and even celebrities anywhere in the world. .
When children are not feeling well enough or are not able to come to the playroom, a Child Life specialist or volunteer may visit at the bedside. Most playroom activities can be done in the patient's room.
At Wolfson Children's Hospital a Child Life specialist is required to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in child life, child development, child and family studies or related field. The Child Life Council provides professional certification for child life specialists (CCLS).
Members of the department include:
- Nine Child Life specialists
- One Music Therapist
We are appreciative of volunteers from the local community who give of their time and donations. A list of suggested items for the children is available here in a printer-friendly version. If you are part of a group that is interested in visiting the patients, please complete the Community Group Guidelines paperwork and return it to our Child Life department.
To contact the Child Life department, please call 904.202.8541. For more information on Child Life, visit www.childlife.org.
If you're interested in our Child Life Internship program, visit the Health Professionals section of this website.