Boys Town National Research Hospital recognizes Child Life Month in March. Our Child Life Specialists work with the medical staff and caregivers of the patients to help alleviate fears and anxieties a child may experience during hospitalization. They identify potential sources of stress, provide accurate and age-appropriate information to the patient and family members and work with the child to plan and practice coping strategies.
Our hospital Child Life team includes: Maggie Kelly, Child Life Supervisor; Becky Feller, Natalie Nelson, Katie Warner, Mary Beth Himmelberg, Child Life Specialists; and Theresa Falk and Violeta Meyer, Child Life Assistants.
By combining play and education, Child Life Specialists are able to explain medical procedures and diagnoses in a way that children of all ages can understand. Read each member of the Child Life team’s story on why they choose the role of a Child Specialist and favorite experiences!
“I always knew I wanted to work with kids in the medical field and after hearing about Child Life, I spent time researching what the role entailed and loved it,” said Feller. “Diving deeper into my studies and time in the hospital with the kids while I was in school further solidified my passion. My favorite part about being a Child Life Specialist is teaching a procedure to a child who is unfamiliar with the process and being able to see the relief and pride overcome his/her face after the procedure gets me every time. Through play, we are able to help assess a child’s understanding of the medical environment. Although it looks like fun and games, it’s a lot of work, but I love it!”
“I loved the idea of giving children in difficult situations positive experiences to associate with their experience instead of only negative memories,” said Himmelberg. “The more I learned about Child Life, the more I wanted to become involved. I love seeing children’s demeanors physically change as you explain what is going to happen and they realize that it is not nearly as scary as what they had imagined. I also love working with children who have fears related to needles or other hospital experiences and helping them develop coping strategies that work for them to make the experience better. I feel so lucky to work with an organization that recognizes the value of Child Life and supports us so strongly in our work.”
“Being able to work with both children and their families and addressing their unique challenges and experiences with hospitalization is simply fulfilling,” said Nelson. “Child Life is one of the most rewarding professions in healthcare. We get to create lots of smiles and laughter, but most of all create a positive experience in a place that causes much anxiety for many. Getting to provide opportunities and the tools needed for vulnerable children to feel strong and empowered is my favorite part of the job. Many of our patients come in tearful and nervous about the hospital, but by the end of the day, they don’t want to leave us!”
“I knew I wanted to work with children but was unsure in what capacity,” said Warner. “My junior year in college a Child Life Specialist came and talked to us and I knew right away that was the job for me. My days are always different and unpredictable. Children are all so different and the needs they have in the hospital vary so much. There is never a dull day! Every child is unique and perceives experiences differently which is important as part of my job to individualize the care for each child.”
“I love children, I love to teach and I love a challenge. Child Life offers me the chance to work with children who will experience the hospital and a medical procedure, sometimes for the first time,” said Kelly. “Because a child’s ability to process information changes as they develop, we have to be able to adjust the way we present information about the hospital so that we meet the child’s needs. Children can be very confused about information they hear or see. I can remember one child who heard he would be put under and he asked under what? There are many examples of language and experiences in the hospital that can be and often are misinterpreted by children. Our Child Life team helps children sort out the misunderstandings, preparing them for a positive experience at the hospital.”