What exactly does a child life specialist do?
Today’s the day. Celebrate Child Life Month by following me on a day in the life of a child life specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. I’ve been a child life specialist for three and half years now.
Growing up, my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, and he was treated at an Advocate hospital. That’s what led me to become interested in working in pediatrics and, ultimately, I found that child life was the best fit for me.
Today, my day is starting at 10 a.m. I just rolled out of bed. And I know what you’re thinking… “Must be nice.” But, before you get too jealous – I worked until 1 a.m. last night. I’m starting off my day by going for a run.
Having my mornings free allows me to work on other projects. Today, I’m doing work for Walk It Out For Andrew, a nonprofit I started with my friends. This organization fully funds the teen hematology and oncology support groups at Advocate Children’s Hospital on both the Oak Lawn and Park Ridge campuses.
I’m arriving at the Park Ridge campus to start my day. Before I begin my clinical day, I must attend to some administrative duties. One of my jobs is to coordinate in-kind donations, so I’m working on returning a few calls to donors. The generosity of our community continues to inspire me every day.
I also made sure to find time for my large iced coffee, as I prepare for a busy 10-hour shift.
It’s time to head down to the Emergency Department (ED), where I’ll be stationed for the remainder of my shift. It’s already been a very busy day, and my fellow ED staff have greeted me with smiles as they fill me in on current needs.
Here in the pediatric ED, our amazing nurses decorate each room door to make the environment a more welcoming and fun place. I must say, my personal favorite is the Ninja Turtles room.
One of my patients turns 10 years old today. No one should have to spend their birthday in the hospital, but, unfortunately, there are instances when it’s necessary. We like to acknowledge every birthday in the hospital by presenting the patient with a personal gift while the staff sings happy birthday. Our nurses have great singing voices.
My schedule differs day by day, but here are just a few things that I see on a daily basis:
The inpatient floor just paged, so I’m on my way up to assist them with a patient. Although I am based in the ED, once my child life co-workers leave for the evening, I’m responsible for carrying our pager so I’m able to help out in other areas of the hospital.
One of my patients just got the word that he is going to be admitted, which can be very scary. Luckily, we have organizations that donate these blankets so each patient can be a little more comfortable during their stay. He is much happier when I tell him about all the fun things to look forward to on the floor and present him with his cool new blanket.
Having surgery can be scary and confusing for kids. That’s why I provide developmentally appropriate education about an upcoming appendectomy to one of my patients. I allow him to smell our flavored anesthesia masks (strawberry and bubble gum), and then we look at a picture of the GI system together to see if he can identify where the appendix is located.
Wow, what a shift. It was crazy busy, but our team was able to work together to address the high volume of patients and help the kids feel better. Shout out to all of our amazing ED nurses, techs, nurse practitioners, doctors and secretaries.
It’s now after 1 a.m., and after a busy shift, I’m ready to go home and relax. Goodnight, Advocate Children’s Hospital. See you tomorrow.
To support and learn more about Child Life programs at Advocate Children’s Hospital, visit our website.
About the Author
Jamie Lick is a child life specialist at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.