The team of certified child-family life specialists at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital are a key part of what makes our hospital special. They help children and their family members cope during a hospital visit, while offering developmentally appropriate psycho-social support to reduce the stress, fear, and anxiety of a hospitalization or medical procedure. In addition to all of that work, they help kids can be kids – even while they’re in the hospital.
In honor of National Child Life Month, we caught up with Child-Family Life Specialist Nancy Her, CCLS, to learn more about the important work of the Child-Family Life Services team, which is funded in part by donations.
What does a certified child-family life specialist do?
Child-family life specialists support children and families through stressful life events. In the hospital, child-family life specialists provide developmentally appropriate preparation and education to patients and families undergoing new medical diagnosis and procedures, use therapeutic interventions to create ways to meet patient and family goals and needs, provide procedural support, and normalize the hospital environment through developmental play.
How is the child-family life specialist connected to the rest of the healthcare team?
Child-family life specialists are essential members of the multidisciplinary team. We collaborate with doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, and others to create family-centered care coping plans for patients and families.
Where do child-family life specialists work in the hospital?
The child-family life specialists at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital are based in many areas of the hospital, including the inpatient units, outpatient clinics, emergency department, surgery center, and sedation unit. I have worked as a child-family life specialist for about six years. I started as a child-family life specialist on the casual team, meaning I worked in all areas of the hospital as needed. I then spent three years working in the emergency department. I currently work as the child-family life specialist in the surgery center.
How does the Child-Family Life department’s work affect patients and families in the hospital?
Patients and families often come to the hospital with healthcare-related fears and anxieties. Our role as child-family life specialists is to help decrease those fears and anxieties, and to help create positive coping strategies.
Why are you passionate about your role?
I really enjoy creating and developing a coping plan with patients and families. It's amazing to see and hear a patient tell me that they CAN do something they believe is difficult, when at first they tell me that they can't. It's empowering.
What surprises people about your role?
People are often surprised by the amount of work, training, and education it takes to become a certified child life specialist. The requirements include at least a bachelor's degree – preferably in a child development related field of study – a completion of 10 required courses approved by the Association of Child Life Professionals, a minimum of 600 hours of a child life clinical internship, and to register and pass the child life certification exam.
How do the hospital’s child-family life services differentiate our children’s hospital care?
The hospital's Child-Family Life Services provide a unique level of support to patients and families. Aside from supporting a patient's healthcare needs, we help patients meet their developmental milestones, psychosocial needs, and we celebrate all of the big and little wins.