Child Life Services

When your child is in the hospital, it can be a scary and confusing time. Child Life Services at Rush offers children age-appropriate activities and education to help them cope with being hospitalized.

Child life specialists at Rush will also use books, medical equipment, dolls and other kid-friendly teaching tools to help your child prepare for the following:

  • Imaging scans
  • Medical exams
  • Procedures
  • Surgery

child patient working with nurse

What are child life specialists?

Child life specialists are experts in child development. They are trained to help children learn how to effectively cope with their health challenges by using the following techniques:

  • Preparing them for their hospital experience
  • Educating them about the different procedures they are going to have
  • Guiding them through self-expression activities
  • Playing age-appropriate games with them

Why children need child life services

Being in the hospital disrupts children’s normal lives. Hospitalization can cause children to experience the following:

  • Increased anxiety
  • More dependence on their parents
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Fall behind in school
  • Miss out on social and educational opportunities

These issues can all jeopardize a child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth. Child life services can help prevent these long-lasting developmental problems, while also boosting your child’s spirits in the hospital.

Benefits of child life services

The goal of child life services is to help kids:

  • Cope with their illness
  • Heal physically and emotionally
  • Express themselves
  • Use their creativity and imagination
  • Socialize with other children
  • Boost their self-esteem
  • Gain independence
  • Cope with and decrease anxieties about their health condition and/or hospitalization

Personalized care

Every child deals with hospitalization differently. That’s why the child life specialists at Rush will work with you and your child to create an individualized coping plan. Some plans may include teaching your child how to use the following to help with pain management and anxiety about their medical condition and/or hospitalization:

  • Relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing)
  • Imagery
  • Other forms of distraction

The child life team at Rush understand that having a child in the hospital can be difficult for the entire family. Child life specialists also provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings and other family members.

Getting kids engaged

Your child’s emotional and developmental well-being is the top priority for child life specialists at Rush. They provide the following services to your child:

  • Art
  • Education
  • Music
  • Therapeutic play
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Movies
  • Special events
  • Other forms of self-expression

Rush also partners with the following innovative child life providers to offer children a wide range of therapeutic outlets:

  • Snow City Arts: An arts and education program that offers children one-on-one instruction in visual arts, creative writing, music, theater and filmmaking.
  • Open Heart Magic: A program that uses the therapeutic power of magic shows and laughter to help seriously ill children in the hospital.
  • Funny Bones Improv: A comedy program that focuses on the healing power of laughter by putting on improv performances for children in the hospital and their families.

Helping children prepare for procedures and/or hospitalization

Child life specialists at Rush are also available to meet with you and your child before surgery or hospital admission to help you prepare. The pre-hospitalization program includes the following:

  • One-on-one session meeting: A child life specialist will meet with you and your child to help you understand and prepare for a procedure and/or hospitalization.
  • Hospital tour: You and your child will have a chance to see the prep and recovery areas, operating rooms, pediatric unit and other areas of the hospital.
  • Preparation and education: Your child life specialist will help you and your child understand the hospital experience by using using books, dolls, pictures and/or medical equipment.

To schedule an appointment with a child life specialist, please call (312) 942-7842.

Becoming a certified child life specialist

  • The Child Life Department at Rush Children’s Hospital offers an accredited internship experience through the Association of Child Life Professionals. Click here for our internship application and additional information.  
  • Rush Children’s Hospital offers child life practicums. The practicum experience gives students the opportunity to gain more insight into the field of child life. Click here for practicum application and additional information.

How can I support Child Life Services?

Your gift to our Child Life Services Program Fund helps not only raise children’s spirits while in the hospital but also prevents long-lasting developmental problems that can result from the disruption of hospitalization to a child’s life. Make your gift today.

Related Information

Check out our blog to learn more about Rush's Child Life Services program.

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