What Is A Child Life Specialist? – Learn Here

Learning that their child has been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening condition is a nightmare for any parent. Yet every year, many children spend a long time in hospitals.

Infants, children, and youth face a wide range of challenging and highly traumatic experiences affecting their coping capacity. These healthcare-related experiences can lead to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, lack of control, and alienation.

Although it is far from ideal to grow up in a hospital environment, child-life specialists are qualified professionals who seek to make the experience as meaningful as possible. Here’s a glance at the child life profession and its role in the medical experience of a child.

What Is A Child Life Specialist? - Learn Here
Image Source: Norton Children’s

What is a Child Life Specialist?

A child life specialist is an integral part of the health care team that helps process disease or injury’s sometimes tense environment. 

In medical settings, child life professionals work closely with children and families, acting as emotional support and assisting in developing family coping strategies. They help kids and families handle the sickness, accident, disability, trauma, or hospitalization process. 

They have age-appropriate training for medical procedures, pain management techniques and coping, and play and self-expression activities for children.

What Do They Do?

The work for a specialist in child life varies regularly and allows for a lot of innovation in creating care plans. They help children to understand medical jargon and educate them about procedures.

They also give knowledge, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. Child life specialists differ from most other healthcare providers in that they focus on their patients’ mental, emotional, and social needs rather than their physical health.

Specialists use art and play to help young people communicate their anxieties about their condition or the treatments they may not be able to articulate.

Child life professionals also work at the hospital for children’s well-being, placing on activities and services that facilitate socialization.

What Is A Child Life Specialist? - Learn Here
Image Source: Joslin Diabetes Center

What Are Their Qualifications?

A certified child life specialist must have at least a bachelor’s or master’s degree as mandated by the Child Life Council, usually in a relevant field of study, like psychology, human growth and development, education, or counseling.

As a licensed child life professional, they will have to fulfill a minimum of 480 hours in a clinical internship. Many internships comprise more than the required number of hours, and before the internship, most need practicum experience.

The final requirement is to pass an annual national test. Once certified, child life specialists have to engage in ongoing professional development to retain their credentials.

Who Can Benefit from Child Life Therapy?

Child life specialists ensure that children are developmentally on-track during their hospital stay. They aim to build positive relationships and friendly environments through socialization exercises in a playroom or designated teen room. 

Although concentrating primarily on the pediatric patient’s needs, child life specialists are also paying close attention to the family and siblings of the patient. 

A foundational principle is that the medical experience is a family experience, and all family members’ emotional needs should be dealt with accordingly. The child would have a stronger emotional support system if the emotional needs of those concerned are also met.

What Is A Child Life Specialist? - Learn Here
Image Source: Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science


While they are often embraced as an essential member of the healthcare team, they are sometimes disregarded because they look after the emotional health of the patient rather than their physical health.

Traumatic experiences can hinder child growth and have detrimental effects on their health and well-being, both physically and emotionally. For these professionals, if one takes child life treatment away, kids wouldn’t recover as easily, and they would have poor coping mechanisms, which would later transform into poor life skills.