What is a Child Life Specialist?

Certified Child Life Specialists

Certified Child Life Specialists help pediatric patients cope with the fear, anxiety and stress that can happen during a visit to the emergency department or a stay in the hospital. They dedicate themselves to supporting a child’s natural development as they face challenging times or traumatic experiences.

The Child Life Council grants certification only after a person completes rigorous academic and clinical experiences and have successfully completed the Child Life Professional Certification examination. By applying their unique knowledge, skill-set and training, a CCLS can help keep your child relaxed, and even have fun, as they progress through the stages of their healthcare.

Certified Child Life Specialists are responsible for:

  • Alleviating fear, confusion and feelings of isolation or loss of control that can negatively impact a child’s physical or emotional health
  • Keeping pediatric patients and their families informed
  • Explaining diagnosis and medical procedures in a way children can understand, and adjusting their language so it’s suitable for parents and caregivers
  • Maintaining a calming atmosphere while working together with healthcare professionals, families and other caregivers
  • Creating an environment that involves fun and therapeutic activities to provide a distraction for children as they face challenging circumstances

Keeping Children and Families Comfortable

Pediatric healthcare workers know they need to make children feel comfortable so they’ll talk openly, and because of this, a main goal for a CCLS is to create a sense of normalcy during hospitalization through play and self-expression activities such as art, music, games, or storytelling. A CCLS may also use age-appropriate education, visual distractions or breathing techniques to improve a child’s cooperation with the care team. Positive interactions like this can give a child a better outlook, affecting the way they respond to medical procedures. It can also offer reassurance before or after treatment, and in some cases, reduce pain.

At times, Certified Child Life Specialists will shift their focus towards the child’s family or caregivers to make sure they are accurately informed and have coping skills to support their children. This interaction may seem small, but children pick up on the behavior and type of language used by their families. Keeping verbal and non-verbal communication positive can benefit the child’s emotional state and contributes to how well they respond to care. CCLS can also help a patient's siblings become familiar and comfortable with the hospital environment.

At Summerlin Hospital we encourage community involvement through support from the volunteer program, canine greeters, special visitors and donors.