Child Life Department

Child Life Department

Bringing your child to the hospital can be a stressful time for you and your family. Depending on their age, children may experience difficulties while being hospitalized due to separation from family, change in routine, unfamiliar faces, misunderstandings about their treatment, fear of upcoming procedures and an overall loss of control. At St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, we believe that having a strong Child Life Department can make your hospital experience one where you and your child feel supported, empowered and active partners in the healing process.

The Child Life Department of St. Joseph's Children's Hospital has been providing services to pediatric patients since 1987 and is comprised of Child Life Specialists that are bachelor's and master's trained and certified by the Child Life Council. Our specialists feel strongly about family centered care and advocating for what is best for you and your child on every step of your journey. 

For more information, call (813) 554-8155.

What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child Life Specialists are professionals who have studied normal child development and the reactions of children to health care settings. They provide psychosocial interventions to hospitalized children based on individual needs and specialize in meeting the emotional, developmental and recreational needs of each patient. The following is an abstract from the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Child Life Therapy, November 2000.

"Child life programs have become the standard in large pediatric settings to address the psychosocial concerns that accompany hospitalization and other health care experiences. Child life programs facilitate coping and the adjustment of children and families in 3 primary service areas: 1) providing play experiences; 2) presenting developmentally appropriate information about events and procedures; and 3) establishing therapeutic relationships with children and parents to support family involvement in each child's care. Although other members of the health care team share these responsibilities for the psychosocial concerns of the child and the family, for the child life specialist, this is the primary role. The child life specialist focuses on the strengths and sense of well-being of children while promoting their optimal development and minimizing the adverse effects of children's experiences in a hospital setting."

As part of your child's healthcare team, your Child Life Specialist will work closely with doctors, nurses and social workers to help you and your child adapt to and cope with the hospitalization. A few examples of how a Child Life Specialist can help are:

Emotional Support

  • Establish a non-threatening relationship to build trust
  • Work with you and your child to help your child cope with difficult procedures
  • Provide emotional support and encourage expression of feelings
  • Advocate for patient and family-centered care
  • Support families confronting grief and bereavement issues

Developmentally Appropriate Support

  • Explain procedures, diagnosis and the surgery process by using developmentally appropriate language
  • Allow patients to "play doctor" before or after a procedure to help with understanding
  • Help siblings understand the admission and treatment of the patient
  • Help medical staff understand your child's emotional needs


  • Provide activities for play to help with hospital adjustment and stress management
  • Engage and energize children and families by facilitating playroom activities, recreational activities, special events, outdoor activities and leisure planning

The Child Life Department also supervises all the volunteers that maintain hospital playrooms, provide bedside play opportunities and facilitate special events to help normalize the environment and promote developmentally appropriate play in all areas of the hospital.

Learn more about:

If you would like to become a St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa's Volunteer, please call (813)554-8685, or visit our Volunteering section.