UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Celebrates Child Life Week

Child Life Week is March 24-29

National Child Life Week, which is March 24-29, is sponsored by the Child Life Council. The Child Life profession was founded in 1955 to support children’s needs for play and education during long hospital stays. The profession is now a standard in pediatric care with more than 450 programs throughout North America.

Child Life hosted a Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus visit with pediatric patients.
Child Life hosted a Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus visit with pediatric patients.

At UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, a dedicated team of child life professionals work in collaboration with the entire health care system to support a positive patient/family experience and to minimize the stress and anxiety associated with hospital visits.

“The main emphasis of Child Life Week at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is to recognize our amazing team of hard-working professionals who go above and beyond every day to support the patient/family experience,” said Chris Brown, director of child life services.

Primary services include the provision of age-appropriate education about diagnoses and medical procedures, emotional support and promotion of effective coping techniques, and the delivery of therapeutic play and creative arts activities to facilitate expression and positive adjustment.  Child life staff work closely with Volunteer Services, UF and other community organizations to coordinate special entertainment events and maintain an active playroom program.

Typical duties of child life specialists can include assessing the needs of large and varied caseloads; working with highly anxious patients to help them manage their diagnoses or invasive medical procedures; finding ways to maintain normalcy and foster patient smiles through fun activities; training and managing more than 100 volunteers weekly; and facilitating regular UF and community visitor events.

The balancing act they perform on a daily basis shouldn’t be underestimated.

Yet, as hectic as each day can be, they get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from their work. A telling example of this is that each of them responded to a staff meeting ice-breaker question  the same way: “If you could have any job in the world what would it be?”  The unanimous response: their current job. Now that’s a dedicated team!

In recognition of National Child Life Week, a strategic planning  and team-building retreat, gifts and edible treats are planned for the child life staff.

The UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s child life team will also be hosting  special events for its patients and families.

  • Tuesday, March 25: A “Teddy Bear Clinic”  will be hosted to enable patients to “try on” the role of doctor or nurse. This therapeutic activity gives kids a much needed break from “being the patient,” while allowing them to learn about hospital routines and medical procedures in a fun way.
  • Thursday, March 27: Volunteers will be provided to babysit while family members enjoy a break and a free meal during our Family Luncheon.
  • Friday, March 28: Toy Story will be featured during movie night.
  • Saturday, March 29: Our traditional Bingo game will feature a new Hospital Bingo version, complete with snacks and prizes.

UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Team:

  • Chris Brown, Director of Child Life Services
  • Elizabeth Buckner, Certified Child Life Specialist (PRN)
  • Amanda Hughlett, Certified Child Life Specialist (PICU)
  • Anna Lake, Certified Child Life Specialist (Unit 45)
  • Naomi Martinez, Certified Child Life Specialist (Unit 44)
  • Jenna Priest, Certified Child Life Specialist (Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic, Unit 41)
  • Amy Wegner, Certified Child Life Specialist (Unit 42)
  • Ashley Auplant, Child Life Assistant

Learn more about UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Services.

The Child Life program has been described by the American Academy of Pediatrics as “a quality benchmark of an integrated patient- and family-centered health care system, a recommended component of medical education, and an indicator of excellence in pediatric care.” (AAP, 2006)