The Life of a Child Life Specialist
UW Health Services
A Child Life specialist is a health care professional who helps children develop their coping skills in order to reduce anxiety and promote a more positive health care experience.
Child life specialists hold a bachelor's degree or higher in child development, child psychology, therapeutic recreation or a related field. They use play, procedure preparation, education and self expressive activities to improve a child's understanding of their health care experiences.
A child life specialist collaborates with other health care providers (RNs, physicians, therapists) to facilitate the child's growth, development and healing.
Services provided by child life specialists include:
- Procedure support such as distraction for an IV start
- Support for siblings who may also be affected by a patient's illness or trauma
- Support for grief or bereavement concerns
- Pre-admission hospital tours
- Education to parents and the public about the needs of children
- Special events and play activities
Our child life specialists offer these tips for working with children:
- Use age-appropriate language and remember that kids are very literal thinkers
- Explain what you are going to do in a step-by-step format
- Kneel down to a child's eye level
- Explain according to their senses, what something is going to feel like, taste like, smell like, sound like or look like
- Only give a choice when a choice is possible. For example: when assessing lung or heart sounds, avoid asking a child "Can I listen to you?" Instead, say something like "Would you like me to listen to your back or front first?" Or, "which finger can I use to put this sticker on?"
- Let a parent be in a comfortable position for the child. Example: let a
parent hold a child for an IV start.