Child Life Specialists Help Ease the Hospital Experience

Child Life Specialists at Northwest Children's Hospital at Northwest Texas Healthcare System focus on the emotional, psychological, and developmental well-being of pediatric patients by working to reduce their levels of stress and anxiety. They may:

  • Talk with children about what they will feel and see before, during, and after a procedure, and provide emotional or physical support throughout the process
  • Provide distractions, such as toys and books
  • Help alleviate the child's stress and anxiety with deep breathing, play, visual stimulus or simply letting the child express his or her emotions
  • Keep families informed and help make sure they understand any diagnosis or treatment their child may receive
  • Prepare children for surgery, radiology procedures, wound care and insertion of an IV, PICC line, feeding tube or chest tube.

Child Life Training and Education

Every specialist at Northwest Children's Hospital has received a bachelor’s or master’s degree in child life, child development, family studies or a related field. The Association of Child Life Professionals grants special certification to those who complete their examination-based program. These Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) help children cope with their healthcare experience. Becky Imel is a CCLS at Northwest Children’s Hospital and for 10 years has played a vital role in caring for children while they are in the hospital. “Working with children is my passion,” says Imel. “Being a part of their care and recovery is my honor. Each day I get to come to work knowing that I can make a difference in a child’s life. I love my job!”

Family-Centered Care

The Child Life Program at Northwest Children's Hospital provides children and their families with access to two playrooms, where a Child Life Specialist helps them maintain a sense of normalcy during medical treatment. The specialists often use interactive teaching methods, and encourage children to talk openly about how they’re feeling to help pediatric patients and families gain a better understanding of a new diagnosis. Support from a child’s parents, siblings or other caregivers also plays a major role in their treatment. At times, a Child Life Specialist will focus her attention on families to offer information and guidance and prepare them for procedures or set up activities that involve the whole family.

Recreational Play and Activities

When pediatric patients are not coping well or become uncooperative, Child Life Specialists work with healthcare workers and families to develop an individualized plan of care. This can involve recreational activities and play intended to enhance their understanding of care and ease their anxiety, fear or confusion. Bedside and playroom activities include:

  • Crafts, games and other self-expression activities
  • Visits from pet therapists, sports team and community groups
  • Stories, movies or books
  • Special events for birthdays, holidays and more

These activities offer a distraction and allow children to become familiar with their care. For example, playing with toy medical equipment can help pediatric patients feel comfortable around actual medical supplies.

Palliative Care and Bereavement

When necessary, Child Life Specialists work with chaplains and social workers to support patients and families during the last stages of life. Child Life Specialists can help patients express their feelings, emotions and concerns and offer legacy activities such as handprints, pictures, letters and memory boxes to help patients to say goodbye.

Direct Doctors Plus®

If you need a referral to a pediatrician affiliated with Northwest Texas Healthcare System, contact our free Direct Doctors Plus® referral service at 800-887-1114.