Illness, hospitalization and medical treatments are uniquely stressful for children. Phoenix Children’s child life specialists are certified professionals who use education and play to promote healthy development and healing during challenging times.

Child life specialists work with children at any age or stage of development, using developmentally appropriate language and play to help kids understand unfamiliar or complex terms, conditions and procedures. These strategies build confidence in kids, who cope better when they know what to expect.  

The child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s support siblings and caregivers, too. Specialists provide a wide range of family-friendly services, infusing education with play and supporting positive growth and development.

The Role of a Child Life Specialist

Whatever your child’s condition, a child life specialist can help. We’re leaders in promoting patient and family-centered care in healthcare, school and community settings.

Child life specialists may offer these or other services during your child’s stay at Phoenix Children’s:

  • Preparing patients and family members for hospitalization, surgery or medical experiences
  • Educating patients and siblings about illness and treatment using developmentally appropriate language that children can understand
  • Providing play opportunities for patients and siblings to normalize the hospital environment, while also developing positive skill sets, including the healthy expression of feelings
  • Developing coping plans and strategies that patients can use to reduce anxiety during medical tests and procedures

Family Support

At Phoenix Children’s, child life specialists are here for siblings and caregivers who share similar concerns when a loved one is hospitalized. The Child Life team supports families in varied ways, such as:

  • Assisting parents in developing effective strategies to help siblings cope with illness and treatment
  • Supporting families who are experiencing grief due to the severe illness or loss of a child
  • Bridging the gap between home and the hospital by providing familiar activities such as play, as well as birthday and holiday celebrations
  • Championing patient- and family-centered care in healthcare and school settings, as well as helping you to advocate for your child
  • Working closely with both the family and care team to minimize the stress of a hospital stay or outpatient visit in order to achieve healthcare goals

Education and Expertise

Child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s have advanced training and clinical experience. Each specialist in our Child Life program has:

  • Earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in child development, education, psychology, child life or a related field
  • Completed a rigorous internship that includes exploring how healthcare challenges can interfere with normal child development and learning how to best support children in these circumstances
  • Earned certification from the Association of Child Life Professionals, which requires passing a national certification exam that reflects advanced expertise in all aspects of Child Life services
  • Committed to continuing education to advance skills and maintain certification from the Child Life Certification Commission

How to Contact Us

If you feel your child would benefit from the support of a child life specialist during your stay, ask your nurse or provider to make a referral.