Child Life Overview and Services

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
  • Loss of control

At BayCare Kids, we believe that having a strong Child Life Department can make your hospital experience one where you and your child feel supported and empowered as active partners in the healing process. Our Child Life Specialists provide services at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital as well as the pediatric ERs and pediatric inpatient units at Mease Countryside Hospital and St. Joseph's Hospital-South.

What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child Life Specialists are bachelor's and master's trained professionals certified by the national Association of Child Life Professionals. They specialize in child development and are well versed to the reactions of children in health care settings and can provide interventions to hospitalized children based on individual needs, specializing in meeting the psychosocial, emotional, developmental and recreational needs of each patient.

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 hospitalization.

What Does a Child Life Specialist Do?

Whether your child is in one of our pediatric ER centers or has been admitted to one of our children's hospital locations our Child Life Specialists offer:

Emotional Support

  • Establishes a non-threatening relationship to build trust
  • Works with you and your child to help your child cope with difficult procedures
  • Provides emotional support and encourages expression of feelings
  • Advocates for patient and family-centered care
  • Supports families confronting grief and bereavement situations

Developmentally Appropriate Support

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

Recreational Support

  • Provides activities for play to help with hospital adjustment and stress management
  • Engages children and families to promote normalization by facilitating playroom activities, recreational activities, special events, outdoor activities and leisure planning

Teaching & Preparation

Child Life Specialists teach and prepare children for procedures and diagnoses using developmentally appropriate language and teaching supplies such as photos, real medical equipment, medical dolls, or written material. This includes giving children the opportunity to ask questions and learn what to expect in the hospital. Strong emphasis is placed on what the child will feel, hear, taste, smell, and see. Studies indicate that children are better equipped to cope with new situations when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Procedural Support

Child Life Specialists are available to help children and families cope with difficult procedures. Different coping strategies, such as deep breathing or blowing bubbles, can help children relax during medical procedures. Positive coping allows children to gain a sense of control over their experience and learn effective strategies to use in the future during stressful events.

Grief/Bereavement Support

Children sometimes have to deal with grief and bereavement issues while in the hospital, whether it is the death of a sibling, changes in mobility due to an injury, or another form of loss. Child Life Specialists can provide therapeutic activities that allow children to express their emotions. Child Life Specialists also have information about children's reactions to death and grief and community resources available to assist families.

The Child Life Department also supervises volunteers that help to 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.

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