BayCare's Child Life Specialists Help Kids and Families Adjust to the Hospital Experience
Spending time in the hospital can be stressful, especially for children. Depending on their age, hospitalized children may experience fear and anxiety for reasons such as a change to their routine, unfamiliar faces, separation from family and friends, loss of control, misunderstanding about medical equipment and fear of upcoming procedures.
BayCare’s Child Life Specialists are trained professionals who use preparation, therapeutic play, education and self-expression to help children and their families adjust to the hospital experience. They are essential members of the pediatric health care team at BayCare’s St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital-South and Mease Countryside Hospital, and provide support and advocacy for children experiencing illnesses and traumatic injuries.
“This work is crucial to a child’s emotional health because medical settings can be a new, unfamiliar world for children, with the potential for them to develop fears and misconceptions,” said Hadley Trull, Child Life Supervisor at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “Children who are educated and prepared are less anxious and more likely to recover quickly.”
She adds that some kids with chronic or complex conditions invest a large part of their childhood in and out of the hospital and can at times view a hospital’s walls as barriers to a normal childhood. Child Life Specialists work hard to make these walls seem invisible by helping kids understand their illnesses and procedures, and by providing them with activities that inspire independence and confidence.
"Our Child Life Specialists are certified by the national Association of Child Life Professionals and have degrees in fields such as child development, recreation therapy, education, and child psychology," Trull said. "They specialize in working with children in health care settings and provide interventions to meet the psychosocial, emotional, developmental and recreational needs of each patient.”
Services provided to patients and families by BayCare’s Child Life team include:
- Establish a therapeutic relationship to build trust
- Help children 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 situations
Developmentally Appropriate Support
- Explain procedures, diagnosis and the surgery process by using developmentally appropriate language and medical play
- Help siblings understand the patient’s diagnosis and treatment
- Help medical staff understand a pediatric patient’s psychosocial and emotional needs
- Provide age appropriate and recreational activities in playrooms, teen lounges and at the bedside to help with hospital adjustment and stress management
- Promote normalization by facilitating special events, outdoor activities and leisure planning
- Provide opportunities for patients to celebrate treatment milestones, birthdays and holidays
For additional information about BayCare’s Child Life services, visit: https://baycare.org/services/childrens-health/parent-resource-center/child-life-overview-and-services