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Child Life Department

Certified Child Life Specialists at BC Children's Hospital make hospitalization a more positive experience for patients through play, therapeutic interventions, preparation, and creative arts.
About
Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) promote coping through various interventions to help children, youth and families with stressful life events. Play and other normalizing activities help with this coping process. Child life programs endeavour to meet each family’s unique emotional and social needs.

For information on the career-path to becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist please scroll down to 
 "Becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist"

Certified Child Life Specialists help to reduce patients' stress and make hospitalization a more positive experience for children and teens through:

  • Child/teen friendly preparation & explanation for medical tests & procedures

  • Play opportunities to normalize the hospital environment

  • Patient & family-centered procedural coping plans

  • Support & therapeutic interventions during procedures & tests CB.jpg

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At BC Children's Hospital we have an extensive team of Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) providing direct patient care throughout the various hospital care areas. CCLS's are educated and clinically trained in child development and the impact of hospitalization on children and youth. All of our CCLS's are certified through the Association of Child Life Professionals. CCLS's are experts on evidence-based therapeutic interventions that minimize stress and maximize social-emotional coping for children and youth in the hospital setting.


In the hospital setting, children and youth experience various challenging events that are often stressful and anxiety-inducing. Certified Child Life Specialists help our patients to cope with these events by providing clinical interventions in the form of preparation for hospital tests and procedures, support during tests and procedures, therapeutic play, education about hospitalization, and teaching coping methods and strategies. 


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The Child Life Department provides clinical support to patients undergoing treatment at BC Children's Hospital. Our Certified Child Life Specialists provide direct patient care that includes:

 

  • developmentally appropriate and individualized patient preparation for medical tests and procedures
  • support and therapeutic inverventions to promote coping during medical tests and procedures 
  • therapeutic play sessions including healthcare play to reduce patient anxiety and promote mastery of medical experiences
  • collaborating with the patient's medical team to maximize the patient's coping in the hospital environment
  • working closely with the patient's family to promote a family-centred care approach
  • bringing a variety of recreational play opportunities into our hospital setting 
  • providing patients with opportunities for peer socialization
  • coordination of holiday events, entertainment, and special visitors
  • coordinating with the Therapeutic Clown Program and Dog Visitation Program (see below)

Other Programs: 

Creative Art Program:


The Creative Art Program provides therapeutic art experiences for patients and families in order to support healing, coping and resilience. Through individual art opportunities at the bedside, art groups in the studio, special events, and one-on-one art therapy sessions, patients and families are invited to explore, create and express. 


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Therapeutic Clown Program: 

A therapeutic hospital clown is a professional entertainer who has been thoroughly trained in the specifics of working in a hospital environment – physical hygiene, emotional hygiene, infection control, confidentiality and professional etiquette. The therapeutic clown works on a regular basis (for example, once a week) and is directly responsible to the Child Life Department. The clown is fully briefed by the child life specialists before engaging with the patients, and understands that the wishes and needs of the child takes priority over those of the clown.

“Ms. Phizzio Fit – Frizzio Therapist” or “Fizzie” as many of the children fondly refer to her, began at Children’s in 2004. In 2013, we saw the addition of a second therapeutic clown, “Cosmo.” “Fizzie” and “Cosmo” come into the hospital weekly to spend time with inpatients. They also visit outpatient clinics.


For more information, refer to the Canadian Association of Therapeutic Clowns website.



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Dog Visitation Program


The Dog Visitation Program’s purpose is to support the psychosocial needs of children and families in hospital by providing them with: 


  • Opportunities to experience unconditional acceptance and affection between dogs and individuals
  • Relief from stress and anxiety of hospitalization
  • Normalized opportunities for socialization, sensory stimulation, and diversion that children can look forward to on a regular basis
  • Activities that increase patient responsiveness and ease isolation and boredom

Please contact Lisa Knight for more information about the Dog Visitation Program and see "Volunteering with us" for information on becoming a therapeutic dog volunteer.


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For further information about the professional requirements of becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist please see The Association of Child Life Professionals website and read through their Certification Manual.  


For more information on academic opportunites in BC for becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist, please contact Christine Slavik at the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of the Fraser Valley.  


Visit our careers page for information about child life internship opportunities at BC Children's Hospital.


Please visit these links before contacting a child life specialist at BC Children's Hospital 

To Become a Child Life Volunteer:


Volunteers and students are an integral part of child life service. If you would like to volunteer, see Volunteer with Us


To Become a Therapeutic Dog Volunteer:


BC Children's Hospital is excited to offer therapeutic dog volunteers. The hospital partners with St. John's Ambulance to train and screen our therapeutic dog volunteers. If you are interested in committing to a weekly shift, please see these requirements and find the online form. Make sure to indicate "Therapy Dog Volunteer at BC Children's Hospital" in the "Area of Interest" field. 


If you would like a list of toys, games and other items the Child Life Department needs in their play areas and units, please see our wishlist. You are also able to give online through our hospital foundation. 


For all non-monetary donations, please contact Patient Experience.


Due to infection control guidelines, we regret that we cannot accept any used toys or books for patient care areas.


The Sunny Bear Birthday Club helps your child donate any funds raised from birthdays to the patients and families of the hospital. 

Thank you to our donors. Without you, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. 

Resources

We believe children and youth need to understand what is happening to them. A child life specialist can help children and youth understand their experiences and feelings through play, education and support.

Below are a variety of preparation materials, dedicated to help your child or youth prepare for different procedures:

*Please note: our preparation materials have been adjusted to reflect COVID-19 precautions* 

Check out BC Children's Surgery page for more helpful information before coming for surgery. 

If you have questions related to your child's care after surgery, please use the following contact information listed in this document prior to visiting the Emergency Department 

Please see the following resources for tips on preparing a child for surgery according to their age:

Children & Teens with Autism:

Every person with autism is unique. Patients with autism who come for surgery will fill out an assessment tool with the pre-anesthetic nursing staff to help the medical team better understand your child's needs.

 

Additional Resources:

 


Bloodwork is a very common procedure for children coming to the hospitals. Provided below are a variety of resources aimed to alleviate the potential stress of coming for bloodwork:

 

Avoiding Restraint and Positioning for Comfort:

We understand that a blood test can be very anxiety inducing for a child, and it can be difficult to remain still when feeling anxious. To ensure that your child has a successful, but positive experience, we would like to share comfort positions that can be done during a blood test or immunization. 

Contact Us

If you feel that your child would benefit from extra support with getting bloodwork, please contact Lisa Knight or Jackie Nixon to book a child life specialist to work with your child at BC Children's Hospital.

 

Non-Sedated MRI:


The child life department offers opportunities for children and youth to prepare for a non-sedated MRI with an MRI simulator. Please contact MRI Simulator for more information.

 

MRI with Sedation:


Preparation Book for Sedated MRI

Caregiver Tips

As a caregiver, your support is invaluable to your child's hospital experience. Below are resources aimed to guide caregivers on how to best support their children:

COVID-19 Resources:

Please visit our BC Children's COVID-19 page for helpful information about COVID-19, such as talking to children about COVID-19. For information about helping children and teens cope based on different ages and stages, see our resource below:

  • Helping children and teens cope during COVID-19
  • Positioning and Comfort during a COVID-19 Nasal Swab

Resources for Procedures:

Other Procedures:

Our Team


 

Please see the list below for our current team of Child Life Specialists within each area of the hospital.

 Weekend Program & Sibling Support Group:

Amanda Lascelle (alascelle@cw.bc.ca)

Anesthetic Care Unit:

Gloria Kwong (gloria.kwong@cw.bc.ca)
Heather Hameluck (heather.hameluck@cw.bc.ca)

Emergency Department:

Bernadette Sanchez (bsanchez@cw.bc.ca)

Burn Program:

Catherine Leung (cleung8@cw.bc.ca)

Inpatient Unit/ Creative Art Program:

Catia Stuart (cstuart@cw.bc.ca)

Inpatient Unit:

Claire Brown (cbrown4@cw.bc.ca)
Dawn McKeller (dmckellar@cw.bc.ca)

Inpatient Unit, Sibling Support Group & Upopolis:

Nicki Elisher (nicola.elischer@cw.bc.ca) 

Inpatient Unit & Technology Program

Jannie Ngo (jannie.ngo@cw.bc.ca)

Inpatient Unit/Renal Unit:

Rita Marchildon (rmarchildon@cw.bc.ca)

Inpatient Units/PICU:

Rebecca Steel (rebecca.steel@cw.bc.ca)

Oncology Inpatient:

Heather Denton (hdenton@cw.bc.ca)
Tracy Denhoed (tdenhoed@cw.bc.ca)

Outpatient Oncology Clinic:

Kristina Jackson (kjackson@cw.bc.ca)

Medical Imaging:

Reyna Webb (rwebb4@cw.bc.ca)
Kirsten Stratton (kirsten.stratton@cw.bc.ca)
Lisa Daechsel (lisa.daechsel@cw.bc.ca)

Medical Day Unit/Lab:

Jackie Nixon (jackie.nixon@cw.bc.ca) 

Lab & Dog Therapy Program:

Lisa Knight (lknight@cw.bc.ca)
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SOURCE: Child Life Department ( )
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