Celebrate all our Child Life Specialists do at the Children's Hospital of Georgia
Child Life Specialists, also called Child and Adolescent Life Specialists, are trained professionals educated in child development and skilled at working with children and families to overcome the challenges of a hospitalization. Hospitals can be scary for young patients, siblings and parents. Child Life is here to reassure patients and their families that they are in a safe place and that everything being done is to help them.
Using developmentally appropriate activities, they can help children understand their medical treatment in "kid language".
Celebrate Child Life month and remember that it is truly a gift to care for sick children. Materials used and programs run by our Child Life Specialists are made possible by generous donations.
Our Child Life Team consists of: Kym Allen, Stephanie Grayson, Harleigh Smith, Macie Meeks, Maggie Kail, Kristin O’Leary, Meredith Glenn and our two facility dogs Nugget and Casey! Consider giving today to honor your favorite Child Life Specialists.
As Certified Child Life Specialists, we utilize Medical Play to familiarize and desensitize patients and their family members to materials and procedures associated with the healthcare environment, and facilitate patients gaining mastery over their healthcare experiences. We also utilize Medical Play interventions to clear up any misconceptions a patient and their family may have. These interventions can take on a variety of forms such as games, art projects, and allowing them to play as if they were a medical professional. Examples of Medical Play interventions are syringe painting, creating a jellyfish out of a surgical cap, and creating elephants out of examination gloves. Two of our Child Life specialist utilize help from our facility dogs, Nugget and Casey. Nugget and Casey assist in Medical Play interventions. Patients and their siblings assume the role of doctor or nurse, and give Nugget a “Check-Up” with a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and otoscope. Sometimes, patients will also utilize an alcohol wipe, a piece of gauze, a toy syringe, and a toy Band-Aid to give Nugget a “poke.”
Child Life Specialists use preparation to help kids understand what is going to happen while they are in the hospital, so that they can better cope with the hospital experience. We use developmentally appropriate information and methods (prep books, medical play on a doll) so that kids know what they will see, hear, feel, and even smell. By preparing kids, our goal is to reduce the stress and anxiety related to unfamiliar hospital experiences, promote mastery, and clear up any misconceptions they may have. Macie is the first to greet you upon waiting for a surgical procedure, helping to ease anxiety and help the child better understand what is taking place that day.
Normalization & Family Support
Being in the hospital or clinic environment is different than being at home or a school. It is filled with strange sights, smells, places, procedures and treatments for a young patient. As an expert in child development, Child Life Specialists strive to provide normal activities, toys and interventions to the children who enter the hospital. This could be as simple as providing a toy or activity to pass the time or an intervention that specifically targets a developmental task. We have play spaces that entice our pediatric patients to continue “playing with a purpose” while in the hospital. The entire family is impacted by a hospitalization. Child Life integrates the entire family into our interventions so everyone can play a part in the healing process.
Support & Coping
The hospital can be extremely intimidating for patients and their family members. As Child Life, we try to help support everyone as much as we can by providing coping tools to help with the days that are challenging. We offer distraction with play during novel and painful experiences, procedures, scans, hospitalization, and more. We take the focus off of what is painful and redirect it towards things that are familiar and enjoyable.
Special Events, Camps, & Holidays
In addition to direct patient care, Child Life provides other fun activities for our patients to look forward to and take part in. Prior to COVID, throughout the week, we have groups come in to offer special events like art activities, games, music concerts and fun costumed characters. Knowing how important holidays are for kids and their families, we make sure to celebrate those days with the patients who are in at that time. Santa makes his annual appearance, we trick or treat through the hospital on Halloween, and if a child is admitted on their birthday, we make that day special for them. Finally, we have diagnosis-specific summer camps that we offer which give some of our patients the opportunity to have a normal summer camp experience despite any medical or physical limitations that they may have.
Therapeutic interventions are a vast part of what Child Life Specialists do on a daily basis. It incorporates all aspects and services that we provide: preparation, normalization, coping, distraction, and family support. Through play, we can help with clearing up misconceptions and fears, answering questions, talking about their diagnosis and prognosis, reaching milestones, and setting goals. We individualize our activities based on the needs of the patients and families to help with hospitalization and provide quality care by playing with a purpose.
Building Rapport with Long-term Patients
Our longer term patients get to know our Child Life Specialists and are always happy to see a friendly and familiar face when they return to the hospital for either an appointment or procedure. Our priority is to ease any anxiety, especially for those patients most often adversely affected by a hospital admission - our very young patients from 6 months to 4 years of age. Our goal is to help children understand the hospital, their treatment, and the medical process.