Grammie learns from a Child Life Specialist

Continuing our celebration of Child Life Month

Guest Blog post from Linda Radan: grandmother, mother and RN

Child life specialists help the whole family; Grammie learns to advocate and hold her grandchild in a therapeutic position.


Two summers ago my grandchildren were in the hospital for a long stay, including a week in ICU for one of them.  The Child Life Program at this hospital was not large or supported by the healthcare team, but the specialists they did have were wonderful.

Our best advice came from Aunt Shani Thornton. Even though she was in New York and we were in California.

When I brought my 3-year-old granddaughter into the ED it was Shani’s instructions, I followed for how to hold her while they put the IV in. I am an RN and the RN working with my granddaughter told me she had never done it like this and did not want to try.  I held my ground and she admitted it, was the easiest toddler IV she had done.

So reach out to the Child Life Specialists if you ever find yourself in need, they are angels.

If you have a story that you would like to share about working with a child life specialist, discovering the field or how your program is celebrating this month, please click here

How to Entertain Your Kids at the Doctor’s Office

While I am away on vacation my little guy comes down with croup. I heard the cough come on stronger throughout the day and knew that I would end up at urgent care. I didn’t have my Go Bag since I was borrowing a car and I wasn’t prepared with any activities to entertain two little boys at the doctor’s office. Did I mention that it was nap time for my 15 month old? Oh, yes this was going to be an eventful experience!

After waiting for twenty minutes or so we were called to the exam room. My little guy was over it already. He gave the nurse a very unhappy face and tried to whack her away a few times.We then had to wait another twenty minutes to see the doctor which seemed like an eternity to the three of us.

Hmm, how to keep a 4 year old and 15 month old entertained without any toys?

Blow up a latex glove!photo-22

Possible Games

  • High fives
  • Catch
  • Don’t let the ballon glove touch the ground
  • Puppets
  • Farting sounds in the face when letting the air out

Oh yes, our trip to the doc was eventful!


Related Articles

How to Pack a Children’s Emergency Go Bag

5 Tips to Help Your Child at the Doctor

Medical Play

Traumatized in the Hospital

Imagine yourself as a small five-year old having strangers come in and out of an unfamiliar room that you have to stay in. These strangers don’t introduce themselves and begin to poke and prod at your body. You are sick, you don’t understand what is happening, people talk about you in front of you, but don’t include you. They use big words that you have never heard before but you sense that it isn’t something good. Now they have a needle and want to stab you with it.

If you have ever worked with a child life specialist than you understand how vital their role is in a health care setting. Unfortunately there isn’t enough of us. The child life department in hospitals may not have enough funding to cover all pediatric areas. There also might not be a strong director to lead a team of specialists with continuing education, supervision and support.

If there is a bigger awareness to the importance of their role than departments can be funded more appropriately and the leaders of the health care system can incorporate child life as a key component to their medical team. They will realize that the specialists are an important part for family centered care and help to establish a better hospital experience.

As a CCLS myself, I have a better understanding of what should happen during patient care. When I hear that people weren’t treated with the best quality of care it bothers me, especially when I hear that it happens to my own family members.

One year ago today, my five-year old nephew and two-year old niece were admitted for E.Coli which then turned into HUS. They were incredibly sick and absolutely miserable. The pediatric hospital that they went to had just been renovated with beautiful aesthetics but the quality of care was missing.


The family centered care approach wasn’t up to par; the bedside manners, communication and preparation for procedures were just a few things that needed improvement.

The child life specialists were spread way too thin. One full-time and one part-time who tried to cover their pediatric unit and intensive care unit. They obviously had too many patients and not enough time to really assess their needs and offer the right interventions.

With them living in California and I am in New York, the distance couldn’t have made it more agitating. I wanted to be there physically to provide support as both a family member but most importantly as a child life specialist.

I tried to coach my brother and sister-in-law over the phone on ways to help provide support to their kids. At the same time, I was also trying to let them process and express their own feelings. I talked a lot about advocating for their kids, asking for a child life specialist and using comfort hold.

My nephew and niece faced a lot of traumatic medical procedures. There was no rapport and trust built with the medical staff, so they were incredibly frightened and angry over anything and everything (rightfully so).

I reached out to a friend of the family who provided some child life play techniques with my nephew. He was able to express himself, gain some control back and get a little normalcy in his hospital experience. She is a future CCLS!

My brother and sister-in-law had an incredibly supportive team of family and friends. They helped them get through this awful experience and to continue living their lives to the fullest.

child life specialist

The child life profession will continue to grow. I hope that as time goes on there is a broader understanding of the importance and need for the service.