Career Development

What Does a Child Life Specialist Do?

Find out what a child life specialist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a child life specialist.

Child life specialists are trained professionals who work with children who are facing serious illness or injury. They help children understand and cope with their condition by providing support and resources that are tailored to each child’s needs.

Child life specialists may also act as liaisons between the medical team and the child’s family. They help families understand what’s happening with their child, answer their questions, and provide guidance on how to best support their child throughout the treatment process.

Child Life Specialist Job Duties

Child life specialists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Helping children cope with stress and anxiety by providing emotional support during medical procedures or other stressful situations
  • Providing emotional support to children during stressful situations such as hospital stays or family transitions such as divorce or death
  • Coordinating with parents regarding their children’s needs and progress
  • Promoting healthy development through play activities such as arts and crafts projects, story time, or games with other children
  • Planning activities that encourage children to develop social skills through peer interaction
  • Assisting with occupational therapy assessments to determine the best types of activities for a child based on his interests, skills, and needs
  • Supporting a child’s transition into new environments by creating a welcoming environment and helping them feel comfortable
  • Providing comfort and support during medical procedures such as drawing blood or giving injections
  • Observing and documenting children’s behavior to identify changes in mood or activity level

Child Life Specialist Salary & Outlook

Child life specialists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, experience, and the type of organization they work for. Those who have a master’s degree and several years of experience may earn more than those who have a bachelor’s degree and less experience. Some child life specialists work for hospitals, while others work for private clinics or agencies.

  • Median Annual Salary: $62,500 ($30.05/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $125,000 ($60.1/hour)

The employment of child life specialists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for child life services will depend on the number of children with chronic illnesses or disabilities and their need for medical treatment. In addition, the aging population is expected to increase the demand for these workers in long-term care facilities.

Child Life Specialist Job Requirements

A child life specialist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: While there are no specific education requirements for a child life specialist position, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have at least an associate’s degree in child development, psychology or nursing. Some employers may also hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as social work.

Training & Experience: Child life specialists receive most of their training through their education and experience working with children. They may work as a child life assistant or associate before becoming a child life specialist. They can also receive on-the-job training in their role.

Certifications & Licenses: Child life specialists may pursue certifications to show their competence in their role. Some employers may require certain certifications, so it is best to review the requirements before applying.

Child Life Specialist Skills

Child life specialists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is another essential skill for a child life specialist. They often work with a variety of people, including children, parents, teachers and other professionals. Effective communication is necessary to convey information to these individuals and ensure they understand the messages. It’s also important to communicate with these individuals in a way that is friendly and inviting.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As a child life specialist, empathy is an important skill to have when working with children. You can use empathy to help children feel comfortable and safe in your presence. You can also use empathy to understand the feelings of children who are experiencing a medical condition or procedure.

Adaptability: Because child life specialists work with children of various ages and personalities, it’s important for them to be adaptable. This allows them to adjust their teaching style and activities to best engage with the children they work with. Being adaptable also allows them to adjust to any changes in their work environment, such as a new schedule or a new set of responsibilities.

Teaching: As a child life specialist, you may be responsible for teaching children about health and wellness. This can include educating them on how to take care of their bodies, how to make healthy food choices and how to live a healthy lifestyle. You can also teach children about the importance of staying active and how to play games that are safe and fun.

Problem-solving: As a child life specialist, you may encounter challenges in your work with children. For example, a child may be upset about a change in their routine or a new staff member may not know how to handle a situation with a child. Being able to solve problems is an important skill for a child life specialist because it allows you to help children overcome challenges and feel comfortable in their environment.

Child Life Specialist Work Environment

Child life specialists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. They also may work in schools, daycare centers, and camps. They typically work full time, and some may work evenings or weekends. Child life specialists typically work with children who are hospitalized or have chronic medical conditions. They also work with families to help them cope with the stress of their child’s illness or condition.

Child Life Specialist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how child life specialists work. Child life specialists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Child Life Specialists Need to Be More Tech Savvy

As technology becomes more and more prevalent in our lives, child life specialists will need to become more tech savvy. This is because as technology becomes more commonplace in our society, children will be exposed to it at an earlier age. As a result, child life specialists will need to be familiar with how to use technology to help children understand and cope with their hospital experience.

In addition, child life specialists can use technology to help connect with parents and other family members. By using social media and other online tools, child life specialists can keep families updated on their child’s progress and provide support even when they are not able to be at the hospital.

More Time Will Be Spent on the Non-clinical Side of Care

As hospitals move towards a more holistic view of care, they are realizing the importance of spending more time on the non-clinical side of care. This means that child life specialists will have more opportunities to work with patients and their families.

Child life specialists can capitalize on this trend by developing relationships with hospital staff and becoming more involved in the overall care of patients. This will allow them to provide support to patients and families in a more meaningful way.

A Strong Focus on Patient and Family-Centered Care

The trend in healthcare is moving towards a stronger focus on patient and family-centered care. This means that healthcare professionals are increasingly looking for ways to involve patients and their families in their care.

Child life specialists can play a key role in this trend by providing support to patients and families during their time in the hospital. They can also help to educate families about their child’s condition and treatment. In addition, child life specialists can provide support to parents who are struggling to cope with their child’s illness.

Patient Safety Will Be at the Forefront of Child Life Practice

The child life profession is evolving to focus more on patient safety. This shift is in response to the increased awareness of patient safety issues in healthcare settings, as well as the growing demand for child life services in pediatric hospitals.

As child life specialists become more involved in patient safety initiatives, they will need to develop new skills and knowledge in order to ensure the safety of both patients and staff. This includes understanding the principles of patient safety and risk management, as well as how to implement safety protocols in clinical settings.

Child Life Specialists Will Have a Greater Role in Organizational Culture

As hospitals and other healthcare organizations move towards a more patient-centered approach, the role of the child life specialist will become increasingly important. These professionals are experts in working with children and their families, and they play a vital role in helping to create a positive experience for patients.

Child life specialists can utilize this trend by becoming more involved in the organizational culture. This includes working with other departments to develop programs and services that are tailored to the needs of patients and their families.

Child Life Specialists Will Need to Bridge Gaps Between Physicians and Nurses

As the health care industry moves towards team-based care, child life specialists will need to develop strong relationships with physicians and nurses.

This trend is happening because child life specialists are in a unique position to bridge the gap between physicians and nurses. They can do this by communicating the needs of patients and their families to the medical team, and by helping to create a positive environment in the hospital.

How to Become a Child Life Specialist

A career in child life can be extremely rewarding, but it’s important to understand what the job entails before making a decision. The child life specialist role is diverse and can vary depending on the setting.

Some common duties of a child life specialist include providing emotional support to children and families, helping children understand and cope with medical procedures, organizing age-appropriate activities, and working with hospital staff to ensure that the child’s experience in the hospital is as positive as possible.

If you’re interested in becoming a child life specialist, it’s important to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as a passion for working with children. You should also be comfortable working in a hospital setting.

A degree in child life or a related field is usually required for this position, and many employers also require certification from the Association of Child Life Professionals.

Advancement Prospects

Child life specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, although some jobs may require a master’s degree. Many child life specialists have a degree in child development, child psychology, or a related field. Some child life specialists have a degree in a different field, such as education, and have completed coursework in child development or child psychology.

Child life specialists typically complete an internship as part of their training. Some child life specialists may also complete a child life practicum, which is a supervised period of work experience in a child life setting.

Child life specialists who are interested in research or teaching may pursue a doctoral degree in child development, child psychology, or a related field.

Child Life Specialist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality medical care to children and families in our community. We’re looking for a child life specialist to join our team and provide support to our patients and their families. The ideal candidate will have experience working with children in a medical setting and be able to provide age-appropriate activities and support. He or she will also be able to provide guidance to families on how to cope with their child’s illness. The child life specialist will be a positive presence in the lives of our patients and their families during a difficult time.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as a member of the interdisciplinary healthcare team, providing developmentally and age-appropriate care to patients and families
  • Conduct developmental assessments of patients using a variety of standardized tools, and provide guidance to families based on findings
  • Plan, implement, and evaluate therapeutic recreation and child life programs for individual patients and groups
  • Educate staff, patients, and families about child development and the impact of illness and hospitalization on children
  • Advocate for the physical and emotional well-being of patients and families
  • Serve as a resource to families regarding community resources and support services
  • Collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to develop and implement treatment plans that meet the unique needs of each patient
  • Help patients and families cope with the stress and anxiety of illness, injury, and hospitalization through play, art, and other creative expression
  • Promote positive adjustment to hospitalization and facilitate normal growth and development during periods of illness and disability
  • Provide crisis intervention and support to patients and families experiencing acute stressors
  • Maintain confidentiality of patient information in accordance with HIPAA regulations
  • Participate in continuing education and professional development opportunities to keep abreast of current trends in child life and healthcare

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in child development, child life, or related field
  • Child life internship completed
  • 1-2 years professional experience working with children in a hospital setting
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Empathetic and compassionate nature
  • Ability to work well under pressure and handle stressful situations
  • Flexible schedule and ability to work weekends and holidays as needed

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in child development, child life, or related field
  • 3-5 years professional experience working with children in a hospital setting
  • Certification from the Association of Child Life Professionals
  • Bilingual abilities

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