As a child or adolescent arrives at Summerlin Hospital, they may encounter a special kind of health care professional. Child life specialists help pediatric patients manage stress, uncertainty, and anxiety that may appear during an ER visit or hospital stay.
Throughout their hospital stay, child life specialists help children cope by using kid-friendly language and techniques. “Experiences related to hospitalization can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control, and isolation. Child life specialists are trained to help children cope with stress and uncertainty of hospitalization and to empower children and families to cope and heal,” says Jacquie MacLeod, child life specialist with the Children’s Medical Center since 2014.
Child life specialists have an important role in making the unfamiliar hospital environment seem more possible. Their days vary depending on the needs of their patients. “Patients who benefit from child life services include children who will be having test or procedures, have a chronic illness or lengthy admission, or have been identified as having difficulty coping or meeting their daily goals, or have limited family support. We always make sure we address these various needs through education and play,” explains Jacquie.
In addition to providing support and education for medical tests and procedures, child life specialists also coordinate enjoyable activities for patients and families. Group activities in the play room, recognizing special events such as birthdays, and special visits from therapy dogs or superheroes help to normalize the hospital environment for children.
The Children’s Medical Center has two full-time child life specialists: Jacqui MacLeod and Lea Thompson, along with a part-time specialist, Kimberly Grettum.
Certified child life specialists have earned a minimum bachelor’s or master’s degree with an educational emphasis on human growth and development, education, psychology, or a related field of study; have completed a supervised 600-hour clinical internship; and have passed a professional examination administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals.
The Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital offers pediatric emergency and surgical care, inpatient care, pediatric sedation services, and pediatric outpatient speech, physical, and occupational therapies. It is affiliated with Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City for advanced medical needs and consultations.