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Published on August 20, 2018

A child life specialist shows girl something on tablet

Helping kids cope with fear and uncertainty

The often challenging but always rewarding job of the child life specialist at Gundersen Health System is to make healthcare experiences better for children and their families. It's a role that requires creativity, even singing during a procedure or creating a camping adventure in a hospital room.

"We partner with medical staff and families to provide individualized care to children," explains Jenny Noel, CCLS, CTRS, child life specialist. "We use comfort measures, play and explore ways to help kids and teens cope when there's anxiety, stress, fear or uncertainty."

Teddy bears, books, toys, games, videos, art and medical equipment are among the many tools in a child life specialist's toolbox…or toy box. They use these items and well-honed skills to offer:

  • Age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures and treatment.
  • Comfort and distraction during procedures.
  • Support to cope with hospitalization, illness and disability.
  • Goal-directed play.
  • Pre-surgery tours.
  • A safe, pediatric-friendly environment.
  • Grief and bereavement support.

"Children, teens and caregivers are less anxious and feel more in control when they know what to expect. We provide information in ways a child can understand," Jenny says. "Kids are more cooperative and outcomes are much better when they are informed and have a plan to make the experience manageable. Often this involves play, and a team approach is essential."

Currently, Child Life Services are available in La Crosse for the hospital, surgery, procedures requiring pediatric sedation and some clinic appointments.

To schedule a child life specialist for a clinic appointment, please call (608) 775-2599 to check availability.

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals® at Gundersen was integral in the development of Child Life Services and has been a constant support. They provide grants for educational materials, toys, books and electronics used by child life specialists, as well as support new initiatives to enhance pediatric experiences. If you would like to help support the work of Child Life Services, you can make a gift at gundersenhealth. org/cmn-hospitals or call (608) 775-6600.

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