Child specialists are not the same as child life specialists, although many people tend to confuse the two. Child specialists are pediatricians – doctors who provide medical care to children from birth till about the time they are in their teens.
Child life specialists provide extensive care to unwell children who have been either hospitalized for a while or are receiving extended treatment. They also help families cope with emotional stress.
To work as a child life specialist, one has to have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, with an educational emphasis on child life and human growth and development. Many universities offer bachelor’s degrees in child life which gives students great insight into dealing with child development issues and extended hospital management.
If working as a child life specialist is what you intend to do as a career, you need to:
• Have knowledge of grief and loss behavior
• Be able to teach age and procedure appropriate coping strategies
• Have a deep interest in helping children and their families
• Be kind, empathic and patient
• Possess a strong desire to work in a hospital or a dedicated healthcare facility
As a child life specialist, you will have to go a step beyond being a regular doctor. You will have to handle children on a psychological level as well. Basically, you are working towards fostering an environment that reduces anxiety about hospitalization and extended treatment.
Some typical duties that you will be performing include:
Sample Job Description for Child Life Specialist Resume
• Assess each hospitalized child’s care plan and determine reasons for extended hospitalizations
• Create and implement own life plans to assist children in coping with the everyday rigors of treatment
• Act as an advocate for the special needs of children and their families
• Engage children in normal play and recreational activities that promote growth, development, and feelings of fulfillment
• Promote the role of parents and guardians as full partners on the healthcare team
• Use different and individually apt forms of art such as conversation and play to prepare children for upsetting events such as surgeries and invasive tests
• Design and implement pediatric programs, therapies, and activities
• Monitor child development to ensure that normal progression is maintained
• Provide emotional support to families to assist them in coping with the stress of their children going through extensive treatments
• Assess and cater to children’s developmental levels, coping skills and diversional needs by establishing therapeutic relationships
• Perform developmental and psychosocial assessments of children and plan appropriate interventions