Crossing rivers and bridging gaps

I’ve been a child life specialist for about 13 years now. Child life specialists help children and families cope with the hospital setting, and we do that in various ways, from age appropriate preparation for surgery or procedures, to distraction during procedures to help children refocus their attention.

We try to normalize their experience while they’re in the hospital or after they have a procedure, to get back to a baseline and help them to just be kids. Play is really important to children—it’s their form of communication. It’s how they express themselves. We just did a teddy bear clinic where the kids got to play doctor. When they take their teddy bears through the procedures of height and weight or getting a checkup, the kids feel more powerful and in control.

I conduct trainings throughout Hassenfeld Children's Hospital with physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and others, to support their skills in communicating and working effectively with children of all ages. I also work with parents, so that they can better help their children cope with procedures and fears they may have. I run a program called Connect the Dots. We provide education and resources to patients, families, and healthcare providers, to facilitate a consistent, developmentally appropriate experience, wherever care is given.

I think that’s so beneficial to the design of our programs and to the delivery of care to our patients and families is the involvement of the Sala Institute’s Family Advisory Council, Youth Advisory Council, and family advisors. I think getting their opinions on all the projects that we’re working on, and getting their input from the very beginning, is really essential.

Frances Clemente, MS, CCLS
Child Life Specialist
Program Coordinator, Sala Institute

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