Everything Is Awesome on Pediatrics/PICU

I worked on the Pediatric/Pediatric Intensive Care Units for 6 years. Here are a few of my tips for making the most of your interactions with staff, patients, and families.

Constant Rounding


Nothing says “I’m child life and I’m here to party” quite like constantly making yourself seen and known. We have a child life office on the unit and if I spend a lot of my time in the office, odds are I’m going to be missing out on a lot of stuff happening out there. Every morning, I get our daily census of what patients are on Peds/PICU and I begin to make my list of priority patients; procedures, new admits, no family, and more all come in to play during this prioritization. Then I make my rounds to all of the nurses on the unit and ask them individually if they have “anything I need to know about today”. This engages the nurses in conversation, allows them to see my face, lets them know I’m interested in helping in any way that I can, and begins our day together on the right foot.

Run, Run As Fast As You Can


When they do call me for things throughout the day, I’m quick to respond. Things in the hospital happen fast, and I want the nurses to know that they can depend on me to be there when they say they need child life. Nothing makes a nurse want to call child life LESS than when it takes the child life specialist 900 years to respond or they get no response at all. I’m always very open over the phone and let the nurses know what I am doing if I can’t be there right away so that they know I’m not just sitting in my office twiddling my thumbs.

Building Rapport with Patients and Families

If you get to be on a unit rather than an outpatient clinic, use that time to build rapport with the patients and families that will be there long-term. If you know that a patient is here to get their first round of chemo for the week, make yourself available and known to this family throughout the week so that in the next few weeks when they return for round two, they’ll have a face that they recognize.

Same goes for patients who have procedures throughout the day such as those with seizures who will need a back-to-back EEG and MRI.  If I know that the majority of my day will be spent with this patient and family, I want to build as much rapport with them as possible; preparation, medical play, arts and crafts, games, and supporting them through their procedures as well.

Get Organized

For the benefit of the patients, families, staff, and even yourself – make sure you keep yourself organized. This includes your thoughts, lists, priorities, and even the unit. Most of the things on the unit that can get the most disorganized are the toys. It’s important to have a system for yourself and your volunteers to understand and follow.

Few things of ours that can get the most out of hand that we’ve learned to keep organized are our Legos and our board/card games.

For our Legos, we use tin lunch boxes (some even have characters on them like Mickey Mouse, Frozen and Star Wars) and we’ve hot glued the baseplate to the lid. This allows the Legos to stay in one place while they play and makes for an easy cleanup! 33d1e03845645b8176ac4a7cf2253aee

Next, our board games and card games, before we created this method, were easily destroyed. If they accidentally went into an isolation room, it was guaranteed that we’d have to throw the whole thing away. If it was a popular game, the boxes would start to look really worn and gross and, again, we’d have to throw the whole thing away.

We then discovered the magic of laminating, labeling, and using these plastic boxes. It makes it so easy for us to wipe down. Especially for our card games, they’re now all laminated, making sanitizing super easy. We haven’t had to throw away a game in months! It’s made all the difference!


What tips do you have for working on a unit?

Any tricks that you’ve found helpful for building rapport with staff, patients, or families?

Any organizing tips for the playroom?

I’d love to hear from you!

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