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Tests, surgeries and other medical procedures can cause anxiety no matter your age. But for kids who process information differently than adults, a blood draw, MRI or hospital room can be especially scary and stressful. Gundersen Child Life Services help make healthcare experiences easier and more comfortable for your child and your family.

What do child life specialists do?

Child life specialists help children cope with tests, procedures, surgeries and hospital stays. They are expertly trained to provide information in ways children can understand. Children, teenagers and caregivers alike feel less anxious and more in control when they know what to expect and have a plan to cope.

How do child life specialists help kids and families?

Child life specialists provide care in our hospital, clinics, surgery centers and emergency room. They use play and other techniques to:

  • Increase comfort in unfamiliar environments
  • Allow children to safely explore medical equipment they will see
  • Teach about procedures and/or a diagnosis 
  • Provide ways to express fears or concerns
  • Increase cooperation and confidence

Child life specialists also:

  • Help family members be as involved as they feel comfortable
  • Support brothers and sisters and help them understand a diagnosis
  • Provide grief support to children and families
  • Share information with other healthcare team members about what each child needs

What ages do child life specialists care for?

Our child life specialists work with children of all ages and abilities—from toddlers to teenagers.

Do I need to make an appointment with Child Life Services?

In the clinic

To arrange for a child life specialist to be present during a clinic appointment, please call Pediatrics at (608) 775-2599 to schedule.

In the hospital and emergency room

Child life specialists staff our hospital Pediatric Unit and Emergency Services seven days a week; hours vary.

On the day of surgery

Child life specialists provide support the day of surgery for most children, ages 1-14, and by request for infants and older teens.

Friendly reminder

You may ask for a child life specialist to be paged (to see if they are available) if one is not present when you arrive.

How do I prepare my child for surgery?

If your child is having surgery soon, consider a Teddy Bear Care Pre-Surgery Tour. Led by our child life specialists, these tours can help decrease anxiety and increase your child's understanding about what will happen the day of surgery.

What is included in the Teddy Bear Care Pre-Surgery Tour?

The Teddy Bear Care Pre-Surgery tour includes:

  • Opportunity to see pictures of the surgery area, including pre-op, the operating room and recovery room. If your child will be staying overnight after surgery, a tour of the Pediatrics Unit in the hospital may be available.
  • Opportunity to see medical equipment that will be used on the day of surgery (e.g., pulse oximeter, anesthesia mask).
  • Time for parents and children to ask questions about upcoming surgery.
  • Children will receive a teddy bear and a certificate saying they completed the program.

To schedule a tour, please call (608) 775-5972.

Do you have online resources available for families? 

Yes. Our Patient Education website offers child-friendly slides and videos to prepare your child for various procedures and surgeries (everything from X-rays and CT scans to IV placement and sleep studies).

Will I be charged for Child Life Services?

No. Child Life Services is offered at no charge—provided for your child’s comfort and your peace of mind.


Can I donate toys or other items to Child Life Services?  

Yes. Thank you for your interest in donating items to our pediatric patients. Please take a few minutes to review our donation guidelines, as we must keep patient safety and well-being our top priority. If your donation is one that we can accept, please complete the online form and we’ll be in touch. Thank you. 

View Guidelines and Donation Form

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1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

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