Celebrate Child Life Month: How Hospitals Connect With Children And Adolescent Patients

by Taylor Stathes, MS, CTRS, CCLS – Manager, Child Life and Special Programs, Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Upstate

My “Introduction to Child Life” professor started class by asking, “What will your elevator speech be?” I pondered this question, not knowing I would need more of an “escalator ride to the 20th floor” speech. Not because it’s impossible to explain what we do as certified child life specialists – it’s just that our profession is fast evolving from what used to be called “play ladies.”

Yes, we hear that term a lot. People often say, “Man, I wish I had your job; you just play with kids all day.” Which brings us back to my elevator speech.

I often respond this way: “You’re absolutely right. I have the best job in the world. I get to connect with children of all ages and play to help normalize their environment. But this play is purposeful. Everything we do from prepping for procedures to blowing bubbles has a specific goal and purpose behind it.”

I get it. It might not look like much from an outsider’s perspective, but our education and training allow us to understand theory and development so that we can connect with children and adolescents in an environment that strips away their control and ability to just be a kid.

Each year in March, child life specialists across the nation are celebrated and recognized for their work. At Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Upstate, individual departments celebrate their child life specialists in many ways. Some are showered with their favorite snacks, while others receive creative words of affirmation for the role they play on the multidisciplinary team. We take advantage of this time as an opportunity to educate others about the services offered through our program. We want to share with you the broad scope of child life services within Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Upstate.

1.    Play (Goal: Basic mechanism for learning)

  • Therapeutic Play (Goal: Facilitate expression, coping and mastery)
  • Medical Play (Goal: Increase understanding; allow them to share fears, feelings or concerns; clear up misconceptions)
  • Diagnosis Education (Goal: Provide developmentally appropriate information on why they are in the hospital and what it means for their life)
  • Preparation (Goal: Communicate accurate information before a procedure, formulate a coping plan)

2.    Support

  • Procedural Support (Goal: Provide distraction, sensory information, relaxation, deep breathing, use ONE VOICE)
  • Emotional Support (Goal: Offer an outlet for patient to discuss fears, concerns, etc.)
  • Family Support (Goal: Involve parents and siblings, increase understanding)

As you can see, the services we provide are goal-driven and can extend far beyond the goals listed here. They are unique based on our assessment of the patient and family and their specific needs. 

Prisma Health Children’s Hospital – Upstate staffs child life specialists in pediatric inpatient units, outpatient hematology/oncology, radiology, the ER, Patewood Medical Campus, Julie Valentine Center, Oconee Memorial, and even a designated specialist who works with children of adult patients in our adult ICUs. When you consider all of those areas, we have a combined total of 16 Certified Child Life Specialists who are committed to serving the hospital’s smallest patients.

Child life services are not billable through insurance. That means, every patient and their family have access to child life, regardless of their ability to pay. The Child Life Department relies heavily on philanthropic support to carry out their mission of transforming the hospital from what can be a very scary place, to one that is safe and inviting for kids. Research supports that positive healthcare experiences in childhood, can drastically shape the way one views healthcare as they age into adulthood.

Help celebrate your hospital’s child life team! You bring attention to the important work they are doing each and every day.

Back to News