Caring Staff Focus on Reducing Stress for Patient, Family

Four ladies holding fun goodies following a “Dancing While Cancering” Zoom debut
All smiles following a “Dancing While Cancering” Zoom debut.

April 16, 2021

It takes a special heart and talent to care for infants, children and teens who require short- or long-term medical care at Summerlin Hospital. Playing a vital role in young patients’ hospital visits is our team of Child Life Specialists, who use developmentally appropriate play and education techniques to help pediatric patients cope with the stress and uncertainty of hospitalization.

“Children and adolescents have unique needs," says Amber Landry, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) at Summerlin Hospital. "We collaborate with other members of a multidisciplinary team to help meet the individual, psychosocial needs of the patient and promote family-centered care throughout the facility."

Children and adolescents diagnosed with a chronic condition benefit from the supportive services that Child Life Specialists can provide. From new diagnosis education using child-friendly teaching techniques to continued support through ongoing treatment, they help “decode” the unfamiliar world of the hospital. They also focus on the development of healthy coping skills, opportunities for self-expression, and normalizing the environment through play/recreation.

“We personalize our interactions with each patient to meet their developmental and emotional needs,” says Danielle Goupille, CCLS, who works in the pediatric cancer unit. “This helps increase their understanding of what’s happening, along with tools to help them actively participate in their care and their own story. Watching these kiddos overcome each challenge and building supportive relationships with them is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.”

Finding Fun Even During a Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic intruded on opportunities for special visitors to the Children’s Medical Center, the Child Life team quickly transitioned to virtual programming and identifying new occasions for patients.

“The community support was incredible,” says Lisa Sperry, Administrative Director for the Children’s Medical Center. “Even during these tense times, we still received donations – books, bobbleheads and special treats – from Ayden’s Army of Angels, Bark-Andre Furry, Sir Winston da Doodle, the Wesley Payton Childhood Cancer Foundation and many others.”

While plans were slightly altered, there were still special events like the second annual Lights of Love, created by MedicWest Ambulance, that brought together area first responders; special virtual programming from Lollipop Theater Network, which delivered current movies and entertainment to pediatric patients; and a special visit from Santa on Christmas Day after a busy night of delivering gifts throughout the world.

In late 2020, the Child Life team also launched a new program: Dancing While Cancering, from The Maddie Kramer Foundation, which provides Smile Packs to newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients at partner hospitals throughout the United States. These curated gift packs are filled with gifts, ranging from wall decals to musical instruments that can help transform the inpatient hospital experience, and reminders to take advantage of moments to smile, sing and dance.

Whether it’s an inpatient admission or an outpatient visit, Child Life Specialists can help. “They have the training and expertise to provide support in a variety of healthcare settings and assist patients in the pediatric unit, the pediatric oncology unit, outpatient surgery and the pediatric emergency department,” says Sperry.

Certified Child Life Specialists have bachelor's or master's degrees, have completed a minimum 600-hour clinical internship, and have achieved an exam-based professional certification issued by the Child Life Certification Commission, a subsidiary of the Association of Child Life Professionals.