What is a child life specialist?

Hospitals can be strange and scary places for children, and parents aren’t always able to answer their questions or calm their fears.

While parents would do anything to help their children, they don’t always have the knowledge or the skills to help a child cope with medical-related fears or anxieties.

Child life specialists work with kids who have a serious illness or an upcoming hospital visit, or who are patients in the emergency department. These professionals help children and their parents navigate the process to help make the experience easier for everyone.

If you think your family could benefit from working with a specialist, contact UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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What Does a Specialist Do?

Initially, a child life specialist assesses your child’s needs and comes up with a plan to make a hospital visit or medical testing the best experience possible. The plan might include play-based activities to prepare a child for surgery or a radiology procedure.

They may teach your child ways to reduce stress and anxiety before going for an MRI, or take children through the radiology department or a surgical suite to help them understand what will happen.

The child life specialist can arrange for music or art therapy, group activity sessions, and bedside activities. They also can work with a sibling who has or is experiencing fear and other emotions. Outside the hospital setting, a child life specialist can work with your child’s school to make returning to the classroom easier for everyone.

A Specialist’s Training

Child life specialists may hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in child development or a related field (child life specialists at UPMC all hold advanced degrees) and are certified by the Association of Child Life Professionals.

Becoming a certified child life specialist involves taking specific coursework, completing at least 600 hours of a supervised internship, and successfully passing an exam.

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Why Work With a Child Life Specialist?

If your child is facing treatment for a serious medical issue, take advantage of the opportunity to work with a child life specialist. These professionals can ease both you and your child’s fears. As trained professionals, they can give your child a safe place to ask questions in an age-appropriate environment. And siblings can get help as well, as medical issues can be confusing and stressful for them.

If you think your family could benefit from working with a child life specialist, contact UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.