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Child Life Department

We help make hospitalization a more positive experience through play, preparation, music and creative arts.
Child life promotes coping through various interventions to help children, youth and families cope with stressful events. Providing play and other normalizing activities can help with this coping process. Child life programs endeavour to meet each family’s unique emotional and social needs.


Child life programs typically offer several services to address the social and emotional needs of children, youth and families:


  • therapeutic and recreational play opportunities;
  • age-appropriate activities and explanations;
  • preparation before and support during and after stressful events;
  • opportunities for peer socialization;
  • coping techniques, such as distraction, breathing, relaxation techniques, for procedures;
  • coordination of holiday events, entertainment and special visitors;
  • advocacy for family-centered care
*Two of our most popular programs are the Therapeutic Clown Program and the Dog Visitation Program.

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.

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 more information on the academic requirements of becoming a child life specialist please contact Christine Slavik at the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of the Fraser Valley.  

For further information about the professional requirements of becoming a child life specialist please see The Association of Child Life Professionals.  

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. 

Procedural prep.

 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:

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

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

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

Procedural Preparation for Children with Autism

Every person with autism is unique. Please complete an Autism Assessment Form to help us better understand your child's needs, and send it to the child life specialist in your area. 


Additional Resources:


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:

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:

Amanda Lascelle (

Anesthetic Care Unit:

Gloria Kwong (
Heather Hameluck (

Emergency Department:

Bernadette Sanchez (

Burn Program:

Catherine Leung (

Creative Arts Program:

Catia Stuart (

Inpatient Unit:

Claire Brown (
Dawn McKeller (
Nicki Elisher ( 

Inpatient Unit, Technology ProgramUpopolis:

Jannie Ngo (

Inpatient Unit/Renal Unit:

Rita Marchildon (

Inpatient Units/PICU:

Joanne Hochu (

Oncology Inpatient:

Heather Denton (
Tracy Denhoed (

Outpatient Oncology Clinic:

Kristina Jackson (

Medical Imaging:

Reyna Webb (
Kirsten Stratton (

Medical Day Unit/Lab:

Jackie Nixon ( 

Medical Day Unit/Lab & Dog Therapy Program:

Lisa Knight (

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SOURCE: Child Life Department ( )
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