Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Rainbows are bright spots usually appearing in bleak weather.

They are colorful bridges that blend their hues together to make an optical phenomenon.

Rainbows are also fleeting – when you catch a glimpse of one, soak it in while you can!

You know who else does that? Child life specialists.

The Bright Spots

In a trauma, the child life specialist is brought in to provide clarity, comfort, and normalcy. They use developmentally appropriate language to speak to the child about everything that is happening. Child life specialists provide that brightness in a sky full of darkness and fear, much like a rainbow.

They provide comfort and normalcy by providing all the “fun” stuff at the hospital. Building rapport with each of their patients, they discover each child’s likes/dislikes and can tailor activities and interventions to suit each child’s individual needs.

The Colorful Bridge

Much like a rainbow, the child life specialist is the bridge between families and staff; stepping in as an advocate to speak on behalf of the patients’ and families’ needs or requests. Medical professionals are so comfortable using medical jargon in everyday conversation that it’s often forgotten that not everyone is familiar with these words and phrases. Child life specialists make sure that patients and families are understanding their hospitalization and plan of care in order to provide the best experience possible. This may mean going back to the doctor to clarify a plan for the day or following up with the nurse regarding what patient is or isn’t allowed to eat at this time. Child life specialists are constantly creating a bridge between the medical staff and their patients/families.

The Blending of Hues

Just like a rainbow is made up of many colors, all blending from one color into the next, so can be said for the child life profession. Child life specialists are required to be colorful in their knowledge, skills, problem-solving abilities and creativity.

Child life isn’t just one note, one hue. Our job is multi-faceted and depending on the day, we may do one or two of these job duties, or we may do them all. Some days we’re providing procedure preparation and support on multiple different units for children of differing developmental levels, educating a patient on different coping techniques to use once they leave the hospital, engaging in creative expression through art with a teenager, or holding the hand of a five-year-old being sedated who has suddenly expressed he’s scared.

Other days we may be providing developmental milestone resources for a new mom and dad, speaking to a family about end-of-life memory making for their child, throwing an impromptu birthday party for an oncology patient that has been inpatient for over a month, or holding a non-accidental trauma baby who is now detained by child protective services and has no one at the hospital to love on them.

On the non-patient care side of things – we may be educating students (practicum/internship), working closely with our unit’s volunteers, writing thank you notes to donors, organizing giveaway closets, participating in meetings, and restocking/maintaining our inventory in the playroom and storage.

A Fleeting Moment

Because child life specialists are consistently on the move, they may regret not being able to make those close connections with each and every one of our patients. Sometimes needs at the hospital  are too high that we can only spend fleeting moments attempting to normalize the hospital experience, provide opportunities for distraction, or teach a child a new coping technique.

But just like a rainbow, interactions with child life specialists who know their stuff and can make the most of any moment are memorable no matter how long the moment may last.

As a child life specialist, I’m always there; for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Where troubles melt like lemon drops…that’s where you’ll find me.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Grace Wilhelm says:

    Yeah girl! What a beautiful and eloquent summary of child life! I may just print this out and hand it out to a few departments at work 😏

    Keep on keeping on! You do truly impactful work and I’m so glad you share your passion and experience so freely 🙌🏻



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s