-- Photo courtesy of The Post Register

If your child is hospitalized for treatment after a serious illness, injury or medical procedure, you probably feel like there's so much to worry about besides her health.

One of your main concerns is probably her mental well being: How is she coping with the situation? Will she be “normal” after all this is over?

Luckily, there are specific people who can help with this aspect of her medical care. They are called child life specialists, and here are three things you should know about them.

1) Child Life Specialists Help Young Patients Make Sense of Their Hospital Stay

Child life specialists' main job is to focus on your child's psychological and social health, says the Child Life Council (CLC), a nonprofit group that sets the training standards for the profession.

These specialists are your resource center and guide before, during and after your child's stay in the hospital.


Child life specialists can guide you through the hospital admission process and give you a tour of the hospital to help your family feel more comfortable in this new environment, says the CLC.


Your child may ask questions that you just may not know how to answer. Child life specialists may use a technique known as therapeutic medical play, involving dolls or stuffed animals and medical equipment, to help your child understand her medical condition and the procedure she will be having. This can make it all seem a little less scary or overwhelming.


Once your child is over the worst of her illness, child life specialists can focus on her growth and development using play therapy and educational activities.

While she's still in the hospital, the child life specialist can also make sure she takes advantage of other forms of therapy that the hospital may offer”like art, music or pet therapy.

2) Child Life Specialists Are Experts in their Field

Play therapy may sound fun, but it's also a skill. To become a child life specialist, you need to have studied a relevant field”human growth and development, education, psychology or something similar”at the college level, says the Child Life Council (CLC).

But there's more to it than that. Certification is required, much like doctors undergo board certification to practice medicine.

Certification ensures that child life specialists are well prepared to help children and their families during challenging times.

Some child life specialists focus on a variety of life challenges”like helping families of children with disabilities out in the community”but many can work in hospitals to help pediatric patients cope.

3) Child Life Specialists Provide Support for the Whole Family, Too

There are three key ways a child life therapist can help your family, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Engaging in play therapy
  • Preparing children for hospitalization
  • Providing support and education for the whole family

This last part means that child life specialists are available to help your child's siblings cope with the emotional effects of hospitalization and medical care.

In fact, part of their job is to work with pretty much everyone on your child's care team”from doctors, nurses and surgeons to you, your partner and your other children.

So let them be there for you”it's why EIRMC's Child Life Specialists are here.