Child Life Program

Experiencing an illness or a hospitalization can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control and isolation that can inhibit the natural development and have negative effects on your child’s physical and emotional health. Providence Children’s Hospital has child life specialists who are trained to help children cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury, disability and hospitalization.

What Is a Child Life Specialist?

Child life specialists are child development experts who work to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in health care settings and other challenging environments. They promote effective coping through play, self-expression activities and age-appropriate medical preparation and education. As advocates of family-centered care, child life specialists work in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers and others to meet the unique emotional, developmental and cultural needs of each child and family.

What Does a Child Life Specialist Do?

Child life specialists focus on the psychosocial and developmental needs of your child and collaborate with you and your child’s doctors to:

  • Prepare for medical procedures or treatment using language that children understand.
  • Introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and enhance cooperation with the health care team.
  • Provide support and distraction during medical procedures.
  • Offer opportunities for play and expressive activities, to encourage normal development and a sense of fun despite challenging circumstances.
  • Promote family-centered care by providing information, advocacy and support to families.

Standards of Practice

Child life specialists have earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree with an educational emphasis on human growth and development or a related field of study. They adhere to a code of ethics and standards established by the Child Life Council, a professional organization that also administers the rigorous process for obtaining the certified child life specialist (CCLS) credential.

Research has shown that children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety, and will have better long-term adjustment to medical challenges.

Take the Next Step

For more information or learn more about our Child Life Program, call 866-934-3627.