The Magic of Child Life Specialists

Child Life Specialists often work bedside to support our young patients and their families feel more comfortable in a hospital setting.

March is child life month! The field of child life is small, but mighty and over the years we have expanded from strictly working in hospitals to now working in the communities, dental offices, funeral homes, schools, etc. Child life Specialists are trained professionals that help children and families cope with stressful healthcare experiences.

If you haven’t heard of a CCLS or the field of child life (because most people haven’t!) CCLS are trained professionals that help children and families cope with stressful healthcare experiences. For instance, child life specialists can help children and families to understand a new diagnosis, feel prepared through preparation for an upcoming surgery, feel empowered during immunizations by coming up with a coping plan, plan for a hospital stay, cope with the death of a loved one and so much more.

A Teddy Bear Clinic allows children to care for their ‘patients’ in the same way medical staff care for them!

As a military spouse with three boys, we have had our fair share of medical experiences in medical treatment facilities and out in town (both CONUS and OCONUS) and I have relied on my CCLS (Certified Child Life Specialist) background throughout all these experiences. Since I speak medical jargon and understand the nuances of military life, when a medical emergency or issue pops up while my husband is deployed- we all know this when things happen. Everything breaks, crazy circumstances occur, kids get sick, bones break, need sutures, and the list goes on-I am not panicking! Well, maybe a little on the inside because I have to go through it alone, but outwardly, I am not because I know what to expect.

Military spouses (and kids) are some of the strongest and bravest people I know. But wouldn’t it be nice to have extra support, at least in the medical setting, that you know will be a constant no matter what medical treatment facility you are visiting?

Helping children cope in something as intimidating as a medical facility setting is difficult. There are a few and by a few, I literally mean three, military treatment facilities that have one person child life programs. (This could have changed as my knowledge of this is a couple of years old). Since there are only a few medical treatment facilities that currently have child life specialists on staff, I am hoping (as a CCLS with a military spouse perspective) to share child life tips, tricks and resources with YOU, the parents! Especially our new parents and those of you solo-parenting! This way you too can feel just a little less overwhelmed with all that this (military) life throws at you! My goal is to share information, tips and tricks about helping our kids cope not only through deployments, but medical situations as well.


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Lisa McWhorter
Lisa McWhorter, MS, CCLS, CPMT Lisa is a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), active duty military spouse and mom of three busy boys. Lisa has been a CCLS for 14 years and counting and has worked in several different settings ranging from hospice to rehab to non profits as she and her family have moved up and down the east coast and overseas twice due to military orders! Lisa is passionate about bridging the gap between civilian and military worlds by bringing child life services and resources to the military connected community. Lisa is currently living overseas and loves anything outdoors (especially the beach), spending time with friends and family, cooking and traveling.


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