Child Life Specialists: Caring for Kids and Families

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A hospital stay can be stressful and scary, especially for kids. Child Life Specialist Liz Winkler explains how Renown gives parents and kids peace of mind.

For a child, being in the hospital can be scary — a new environment, new people, new noises along with not feeling well. We asked Liz Winkler, a child life specialist with Renown Children’s Hospital, to explain how a Renown program puts young patients and their families at ease.

What is the role of a child life specialist?

Child life specialists help young patients develop ways to cope with the anxiety, fear and separation that often accompany the hospital experience. They give special consideration to each child’s family, culture and stage of development.

As professionals trained to work with children in medical settings, specialists hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the areas of child life, child development and special education or recreational therapy. Our child life specialists are also professionally certified and affiliated with the national Child Life Council.

 
Child life specialists also offer tours of Renown Children’s Hospital for families whose children are scheduled to have surgery.

Child life supports children and families by:

  • Helping children cope with anxiety, fear, separation and adjustment
  • Making doctors, needles and tests a little less scary
  • Providing art, music and pet therapy
  • Organizing activities
  • Addressing your concerns
  • Telling you what to expect
  • Creating a therapeutic and medical plan
  • Offering a hand to hold

What are some other things available at the Children’s Hospital that help ease some of the stress of a hospital visit?

Whether it’s seeing a pediatrician, getting a sports physical or looking for advice, our care is centered on supporting and nurturing patients and families at our many locations. We have kid-friendly environments that include colorful exam rooms, kid-friendly waiting and common areas, and medical equipment designed especially for children to help ease some of the stress of a hospital visit.

Our children’s ER is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week so parents and caregivers have access to emergency care tailored to the little ones in their lives — anytime, day or night. We have several pediatric specialists on the Renown team in areas including diabetes, emergency medicine, neurology, pulmonology, blood diseases and cancer.

How can parents start to ease their children’s mind when they know a hospital visit is in the future?

As with many things in life, good preparation can help kids feel less anxious about the experience and even get through recovery faster. It’s important to provide information at your child’s level of understanding, while correcting any misunderstandings, and helping to eliminate fears and feelings of guilt. If you’re anxious and nervous, your child may reflect these feelings and behaviors. So make sure you educate yourself, feel comfortable with the process, and get your questions answered.

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