Child Life Month: Celebrating our Child Life Services team
Hospitals and doctor's offices can be scary places for kids. How do you help a young patient understand a diagnosis or procedure in ways that make sense and don't cause further stress and anxiety? At Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, this is what our Child Life Services team strives to do every day.
Child Life Specialists play a critical role on our patient care teams. As child-friendly liaisons between doctors, patients and families, they are experts at finding creative ways to help kids comprehend what’s going on. From defining medical terminology or explaining tests and procedures, to developing individualized care plans and just being there for patients while they're receiving treatment – everything our Child Life Specialists do is done through the eyes of a child.
"Child Life is the lens through which all pediatric health care experiences can turn from a frightening experience into an opportunity for healing and growth," said Julie Hertzog, Mary Bridge Children’s Child Life Supervisor. "We bring play, joy and healing to an otherwise overwhelming environment, not only for our patients and their families, but for Mary Bridge Children’s team members as well."
Kids learn and process information through play, so Child Life Specialists spend a lot of time interacting with patients with games, toys and imaginary play. Whether they’re creating art with paint-filled syringes, playing doctor in Piper’s Playroom, or accessing a port on a stuffed doll, activities are catered to the unique developmental and cognitive needs of each patient.
There are numerous benefits to working with our Child Life team. They’re able to empower kids to speak up, be heard, and learn to become their own advocates. They’re also highly skilled at engaging with kids on their level, interacting and helping connect the dots, making visits to the hospital as stress-free as possible. With the help of Child Life Specialists, many patients learn to identify their own strengths and voice their questions, fears, concerns or hesitations related to their care.
No two patients are the same, and by acknowledging this, our team of Child Life Specialists develops unique patient-specific care plans that are tailored to each child.
Child Life Services is invaluable to patients, but they’re also critical supporting parents and our medical professionals.
Here are some fun facts about Child Life Services at Mary Bridge Children’s:
- Patients and families can request to have access to a Child life Specialist at any point in their care at Mary Bridge Children’s.
- Child Life Services are always provided free of charge to Mary Bridge Children’s patients and families.
- Child Life Specialists serve both inpatient and outpatient, at the hospital and in clinics.
- For Tacoma General adult patients with young children, Child Life Specialists are available by consultation to help explain what their loved one is experiencing.
- Mary Bridge Children’s patients aren’t the only recipients of Child Life Services support. The team will often visit with siblings and other children involved in the patient’s life to help them process, cope, grieve and learn.
March is recognized by the Association of Child Life Professionals as Child Life Month. Follow along as we highlight the robust Child Life program at Mary Bridge Children’s. Next up, you’ll meet Tyval, a patient whose story at Mary Bridge was greatly influenced by his interactions with our Child Life Specialists.
Child Life Services is made possible thanks to community donations. You can make a gift to support this critical program at supportmarybridge.org.
About The Author
Kalyn is the PR specialist for Mary Bridge Children’s. She writes about all things related to pediatric health and wellness, and enjoys telling patient and provider stories.More stories by this author