People in strange clothes, words you don’t understand, and medical equipment you’ve never seen. Hospitalization can be frightening for adults; imagine how scary it can be for children. Mercy Children’s Hospital in Springfield employs child life specialists who focus on the psychosocial needs of pediatric patients and their families.
Child life specialists help reduce the stress and anxiety of hospitalization by teaching your child about various hospital experiences they may encounter through various means such as medical and therapeutic play and distraction during medical procedures. Our Springfield child life specialists work with all pediatric patients from infancy to adolescence on the inpatient pediatric floor, in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Emergency Department, St. Jude Affiliate Clinic, as well as other areas of the hospital upon referral.
Explaining what will happen before, during, and after surgery often helps relieve some of your child’s anxieties and fears. Our child life specialists offer pre-op tours once a week by appointment only to help prepare children for upcoming surgeries. Please call the Child Life Office at (417) 820-3457 for available tour times.
A child life specialist can give your hospitalized child developmentally-appropriate explanations prior to medical procedures and surgeries. Children have the chance to explore medical equipment and look at pictures as a learning tool to better understand what will happen. This approach often helps reduce fears, anxieties, and misconceptions that pediatric patients may have about upcoming procedures and surgeries.
Child life specialists often accompany a pediatric patient while having a medical procedure performed. A child life specialist may assist the patient with deep breathing and other relaxation techniques while utilizing guided imagery and toys for distraction.
Medical and therapeutic play is another tool child life specialists use to assess a child’s understanding of medical procedures and the hospital environment. Play is an important part of a child’s hospitalization. Child life specialists not only utilize play to bring joy and comfort to a child throughout a hospitalization, but they also use play to normalize the hospital environment, meet a child’s developmental needs, prepare children for invasive procedures, distract during procedures, and reduce the fears and anxieties associated with their child’s hospitalization.
Children are given the chance to “practice” procedures on dolls and stuffed animals with adult supervision. This not only helps patients better understand their medical situation but also helps kids feel a sense of control at a time when they have limited choices.
Many children have to deal with grief and bereavement issues while in the hospital, such as the death of a parent or sibling, loss of hair due to chemotherapy, or limited mobility because of an accident. Child life specialists provide therapeutic activities that allow children to express their feelings. They also provide parents and guardians resources and information for child bereavement for support and guidance.
Child Life Services provide emotional support for pediatric patients and their families and make referrals to other departments or agencies when needed. Child life specialists also help families understand how hospitalization may affect the family’s dynamics.
Welcoming a new baby into the family can have a significant impact on his/her older sibling’s life. Child life specialists partner with registered nurses to provide a fun and educational experience for children and their parents to learn about and prepare for the new baby. Children will learn about safety with toys, holding the new baby, and even take a brief tour of the maternity floor.
Register for the Super Siblings class here or contact the Family Resource Center (417) 820–2327 for more information about the class.
Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting the Child Life Department within our Springfield hospital inpatient units. Child Life volunteer responsibilities include engaging patients and families in developmentally-appropriate play at the bedside or in the playroom, cleaning toys to help with infection control, and assisting child life specialists with special projects for patient care. Child Life volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and be permanently out of high school (i.e. graduate).
To apply for a volunteer position within the Child Life Department in Springfield, please fill out an online application or contact Auxiliary Services at (417) 820-2041.
Activities or guest appearances provided by special visitors or groups can be a much-needed distraction for a child throughout his/her stay at the hospital and give them something to look forward to throughout their hospitalization. There are many opportunities for special visitors or groups to volunteer with the Child Life Department in Springfield throughout the year. For more information regarding special visitor policies or to schedule a visit, please call (417) 820-3457 to speak with the Child Life office.
Child Life Internships are a prerequisite to applying to take the Child Life certification examination. Mercy Children’s Hospital in Springfield offers a 600-hour internship for students who are in the final semester of a bachelor’s degree program or those that have completed a bachelor’s degree in Child Life or a related field. This program is supervised by Certified Child Life Specialists and offers hands-on learning opportunities, in addition to providing a theoretical framework of the psychosocial needs of hospitalized children. The internship adequately prepares students to function independently and effectively as Child Life Specialists. Child Life internships are currently being offered in the spring and fall semesters.
Practicums are designed to give persons that are pursuing a degree in Child Life or related field experience in a hospital setting. The curriculum of a practicum involves a variety of learning opportunities, including spending time with pediatric patients, shadowing a Certified Child Life Specialist, reading articles related to the Child Life profession, and completing projects to reinforce clinical teachings. Mercy Children’s Hospital in Springfield offers a 150-hour practicum for students currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, as well as graduates, preparing to attain Child Life certification. Child Life practicums are currently being offered during the summer.
Want to join our team of volunteers? Give us a call at 417-820-2041 or learn more here!
Find important information about donating to Mercy Kids Springfield on our Wish List or call Child Life Services at (417) 820-3457 for more information and/or questions.