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Introducing Child Life Specialists

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Photo via The Ann Arbor News | Dominic Valente

As we explore and discuss the impact Gamers Outreach programs are making for kids within the hospital environment, you’ll often see we make reference to healthcare professionals known as “child life specialists.” If you’ve not spent much time within the walls of a children’s hospital, this term may be unfamiliar. It’s not a role that exists in all hospitals, but oftentimes, a “child life department” helps coordinate and manage the care of patients during treatment.

In simple terms, a child life specialist is a healthcare professional that’s responsible for the care of children in-between periods of time they’re being treated by a doctor or a nurse. Child life specialists, in some ways, become pseudo parents for patients that are going through extensive healing. It’s the job of a child life specialist to help kids and families cope with life inside of a hospital through play, preparation, and education. Child life specialists are in the trenches on a daily basis, working to provide care, support and guidance to families and patients. They play a vital role in supporting patients by organizing activities, explaining treatment, and easing anxiety.

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A GO Kart in use during a recent celebration at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Photo via The Ann Arbor News | Dominic Valente

At each hospital we support, Gamers Outreach closely collaborates with child life teams to ensure we’re providing tools and equipment that will help fulfill areas of need for children going through care. Additionally, we’re fortunate to have a close relationship with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in our hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of the hospital’s staff members, J.J. Bouchard, (pictured above) is an active Gamers Outreach volunteer, and certified child life specialist. J.J. works in the hospital to provide an array of support to patients. In his spare time, he advises Gamers Outreach program activities, and helps us identify things we’re doing well, and what needs improvement. Along with using the phrase “child life specialist,” you’ll see us drop J.J.’s name more and more on the site as we progress our efforts through 2016 and beyond.

Child life specialists play a major role in helping us monitor the impact of our programs, and the role GO Karts play within the hospital environment. Expect to see us highlight the work of these incredible individuals as time goes on!

If you’re curious to learn more about the role of child life specialists within hospital environments, check out this video below from The Child Life Council: