More hospitals using child life specialists

An increasing number of children's hospitals are turning to child life specialists to make children's patient experiences less traumatic and their treatment more efficient, SFGate reports.

"It's my job to home in on the child, see how they're coping at that moment," Kristen Beckler, a child life specialist with Stanford Hospital in California, said in the article. "Sometimes we want to come up and make it be not scary. But you can't always do that. I help them understand what to expect."

Child life specialists work with children from birth to young adulthood, ranging from those with chronic conditions to those who are only visiting the emergency room. Although the primary goal is to minimize trauma for the children, "there are secondary gains," according to Michael Towne, manager of child life services at University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital.

"Hospitals are changing how they think about child life. They're not just thinking about us as a pleasant addition for a positive experience," Towne told SFGate. "If the child copes better, it's less of a struggle to treat them, it takes less time and it takes less medicine. It's more efficient care."

Child life specialists have applications beyond patients as well. For example, they can help children cope with the loss of a loved one, according to Tara Monroe, child life specialist for the 192-bed Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

"The big piece is explaining that I'm not walking in and then talking about emotional things," Monroe told Delaware Online. "It's more like, 'Hi, I'm Tara. Let's play today.'"

"The child life specialists are in between the medical world--and all the technology and the needles and the pointy things--and the child," Bernard Dannenberg, M.D., director of pediatric emergency at Stanford, told SFGate. "The children know that this (child life specialist) is the only person who can't hurt me."

Many children's hospitals have begun incorporating other strategies to make the experience less frightening, such as giving children pre-surgery tours of operating areas or providing goggles that allow them to watch movies during medical tests, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the SFGate article
- read the Delaware Online article