March 2021 – After the NICU

Jenny R. McCormick, Senior Editor of PreemieWorld

March is Child Life Month. What is the role of a Child Life Specialist (CLS) within a hospital setting and how can they make a great part of your preemie’s medical team after the NICU?

  • Child Life Specialist: A child life specialist is a professional who is trained to work with children in a medical environment by helping ease children’s fear and anxiety by normalizing the hospital experience through therapeutic play, education and emotional support.
  • The Healing Power of Play: Since play is an important part of children’s lives, child life specialists use play in many ways to help children cope. Therapeutic play is used to help children manage pain, emotional stress, meet treatment goals and teach new skills. This entails using real or pretend medical equipment
  • Special Playrooms: The playroom and teen room are where children and teens can go to relax, play and enjoy the spaces, which are “ouch-free zones” with no medical procedures allowed.
  • Family Centered Activities: Child Life Specialists also coordinate numerous activities, events and celebrations for pediatric patients and their siblings throughout the year.
  • Support for Grief and Bereavement: CLS advocate for opportunities in memory making and legacy building to promote the healing process and advocate for siblings to be part of their family’s journey and supporting them in an emotionally supportive manner to instill positive coping and trusting relationships during life altering times.
  • Benefits to Hospitals: Child Life Specialists help reduce the need for sedation and other pain management therapies in children, lowering medical costs. Child life specialists help children be more accepting of medical treatments, allowing for great staff efficiency. They promote a culture of patient- and family-centered care as well as improve patient and employee satisfaction.

Learn more about Child Life Specialists: https://college.mayo.edu/academics/explore-health-care-careers/careers-a-z/child-life-specialist/

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