The Role of Child Life
Child life specialists work in collaboration with you and your child and the entire medical team to address the emotional concerns that often accompany hospitalization or outpatient health care experiences. Some of the specific roles we can play to help your child with procedures are listed below:
- Child life specialists can help prepare children ahead of time for health care experiences. Preparation, whether by families, medical providers, or child life specialists is essential in reducing fear and anxiety that often accompany health care events. Preparation techniques such as written materials, photographs, (surgical and treatment areas) and tangible items (medical equipment, dolls, puppets) should be adapted to the child’s developmental level, personality, and unique experiences of the child and family. When children are provided with opportunities to learn about their upcoming health care events, they often experience fewer negative symptoms than do children who did not receive formal preparation. Findings include a decrease in posttraumatic stress, lower levels of fear and anxiety, increased cooperation and better coping long-term.
- Child life specialists also assist children and teens with developing their own coping and pain management plans. Strategies such as swaddling an infant, playing with and distracting a preschooler, using relaxation, breathing techniques and guided imagery with school age children and teenagers can decrease distress and pain experienced by children during medical procedures. Child life specialists can effectively provide developmentally appropriate, nonpharmacologic pain management and provide support and coaching to parents before, during, and after medical procedures.
- Child life specialists often assist children and their families with choosing a position of comfort prior to a procedure. Research has demonstrated that children and teens are less fearful when positioned for medical procedures in a sitting position rather than supine. In addition to reducing the child’s distress and gaining their cooperation, comfort positions generally require fewer staff to be present in the room, facilitate safe and effective accomplishment of the medical procedure and increase satisfaction for both the child and the parent.
- Child life specialists adapt their techniques and services to work with a wide variety of children including patients with autism spectrum disorder, children with mental health and developmental needs, etc.
Child life services are associated with improved overall quality, improved patient coping, the reduction of sedation, and an overall more positive experience for the patient and family.
If you feel your child would benefit from setting up a preparation meeting before your child’s needle procedure, or you want to request that a child life specialist is available for your child’s appointment, please contact the Child Life Department at (816) 983-6870. Please call us with as much advance notice as possible to help ensure that we have someone available to support your child.