“Hi, handsome guy!” Rachel Delano, child life specialist greets Owen, a baby being treated in the Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department at Baystate Children’s Hospital. As she enters the patient room she greets Owen’s mom with a warm smile. “Hi, I’m Rachel, I’m from Child Life. I’m here to support you, to make sure you understand everything that happens, what to expect, and to keep him happy and comfortable.”
Among the doctors, nurses, and other highly-trained experts dedicated to caring for our youngest patients, there is a group of special caregivers called child life specialists who are trained to meet the unique needs of children and their families in the hospital. You’ll recognize them by their signature purple uniforms as they support care throughout Baystate Children’s Hospital including the pediatric surgery center, the Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department, the outpatient Baystate Children’s Specialty Center, pediatric hematology and oncology care in the Sadowsky Center for Children, the pediatric procedure unit, and on inpatient units.
March has been designated Child Life Month and we honor our child life specialists who promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They are certified through the Association of Child Life Professionals and despite how easy they sometimes make their work look, there is a great deal of education (most are Master’s prepared), critical thinking, and careful strategy that goes into their approaches with our patients and families. The type of support our child life specialists provide is as unique as the children, teens, and families who need it.
“Our child life specialists can be found in all sorts of situations: at the head of the bed in the trauma room focusing on decreasing anxiety and helping patients and families understand what’s happening around them, working with a patient on a therapeutic art project to help process their hospital experiences, in a treatment room guiding a child and family through a difficult procedure, providing developmental education to parents, helping a child practice breathing through an anesthesia mask, supporting a family through grief and loss of a loved one, teaching a child what a port feels like on a teaching doll, and they can be seen throwing parties for birthdays, graduations, or treatment milestones,” says Nancy Rines, MSN, RN, director of Women’s Services, Baystate Children’s Hospital, Observation/Infusion. “They are listening, encouraging, singing, hugging, distracting, high-fiving, and advocating for our patients on a daily basis.”
Nancy notes that families will often say that child life specialists bring laughter during dark days, reprieve from bad news, courage in the face of fear, and hope in the midst of the most daunting challenges. We thank our child life specialists this month and all year long for the exceptional care they deliver to children and their families.
Watch this video of Child Life Specialist Rachel Delano and take a look inside the world of the Child Life team: