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Meet Our Child Life Team

At Franciscan Hospital for Children, our Child Life Specialists work closely with children in our inpatient rehabilitation program and can frequently be seen spreading their contagious, fun spirit throughout the Hospital. In celebration of Child Life Month and the wonderful work that they do, we asked them some questions about Child Life and are sharing their answers with you!

Child Life Team

FHC Child Life Specialists Melissa, Kristen and Courtney

What is a Child Life Specialist?
Melissa: Child Life Specialists are trained professionals with expertise in how hospitalization impacts children and families. We provide distraction and coping techniques during hospital experiences, and we utilize play to normalize the hospital environment and provide opportunities for self-expression. We support families and siblings through education, and promote continued optimal development amidst the challenges of medical care.

What are some of the ways you help children and families overcome the trauma that can accompany a hospital stay?
Kristen: Child Life Specialists work to help families feel heard and empowered by providing opportunities for them to express their needs and exploring what makes them feel most comfortable. We collaborate with other disciplines to provide the most comprehensive and personalized level of care possible. We find out what they like to do, what characters they love, or what helps them the most when they feel scared or worried. We play, we laugh, and we strive to make it contagious!

How do you use play as a fundamental part of the treatment process?
Courtney: Play makes all the hard work these children do fun and exciting! I once painted a child’s feet and had him create foot prints on a road map in order to ease his anxieties over walking for the first time after his accident. Other activities might include blowing a pin wheel to promote deep breathing, or playing Connect 4 to stimulate cognitive development.

During challenging treatments or moments, Ispy books give kids something else to focus on. Going outside helps kids feel relaxed and normal! We also have groups like Hole in the Wall Gang and Project Sunshine come in to sing or do projects that help our children to feel valued, and gives them a healthy outlet for energy and feelings. Play makes the hospital comfortable and safe. It makes it a place that is about the kids, and not about their illnesses.

Child Life Syringe Painting

Child Life Specialist, Kristen, creating artwork with a patient using a syringe

What is your favorite part about being a Child Life specialist?
Melissa: Being able to work with both children and their families and addressing their unique challenges and experiences with hospitalization. Knowing that I have built relationships with families in such a way that I know them on a first name basis and they welcome me into the room with an update about the latest progress in their lives.
Kristen: Creating smiles, laughter, and positive experiences for kids.
Courtney: Getting to provide opportunities for vulnerable children to feel strong and empowered. And getting to play for a living!

What is your favorite activity to do with children and their families?
Melissa: Bubbles, and taking the kids outside
Kristen: Syringe painting!
Courtney: Mask decorating and Ispy books for distraction during procedures… unless I can say having pigs come to visit?

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Melissa: To freeze time!
Kristen: To be able to read babies’ minds.
Courtney: To be able to teleport… that way I could sleep in and still never be late!

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