(KUTV) If a child visits the emergency room, has to have surgery, or is admitted to the hospital and needs to stay overnight, they might end up working with a child life specialist.
“A child life specialist is someone who helps normalize the hospital environment for children whenever they come to the hospital,” says Caitlin Ellis, MA a Child Life Specialist at Intermountain Riverton Hospital.
Child life specialists help ease a child’s fear and anxiety by having some fun.
“We help them engage in play. We provide activities for them. Just so they are kind of distracted from what’s going on around them,” says Ellis.
They also explain medical procedures in a way children can understand.
“The IV is like a little straw that helps give your body a drink and gives you medicine to help you feel better,” says Ellis.
When possible, it’s helpful for a child life specialist to walk a child through an upcoming procedure.
“I’ll show them by using the hospital buddy. I’ll put the IV into the buddy and have them manipulate the items, touch them, feel them. That way they can know what to expect,” says Ellis.
Another way to ease a child’s hospital worries is to use soft language. Instead of telling a child they’re going to get a shot, describe it as a poke.
Finally, one of the most important things is to give a child an outlet to express themselves and show emotion.
“Just providing that normal place for them to play, to talk, to express their feelings. That’s really important,” says Ellis.
Child life specialists would not be able to do what they do without community donations. Everything from blankets and stuffed animals to games and toys help child life specialists provide the best care possible.