Child Life – PediaCast 290

Join Dr Mike, Danielle Behnke, and Elizabeth Pastorek for a round-table discussion on the Child Life Program at Nationwide Children’s. We cover the goals of the program, the role of the child life specialist on the medical team, resources, activities and FUN ways to support patients and families… as well as tips and opportunities for pursuing a child life career!


  • Child Life

  • Family Fun Summer Activities





Announcer 1:This is PediaCast.


Announcer 2: Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's here is your host Dr. Mike Patrick:

Dr. Mike Patrick: Hello everyone and welcome once again to PediaCast. It's a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike coming to you from the campus of nationwide Children's Hospital. We're in Columbus, Ohio. It is June 25, 2014, episode 290 and we're calling this one, "Child Life". I want to welcome everyone to the program. So summer is officially here and it's about time. You know it was a rough winter when you're still talking about it in June. 


And I will say this, usually the folks in Ohio are complaining about the heat right about now, but not so much this year. I think summer is a welcome sight and I talked about the Columbus zoo last time, definitely a must see if you find yourself in central Ohio. But there's a lot more to do around here and you have to start planning some of these things now. Make a little summer bucket list if you will, otherwise the time flies by and you wonder where the summer went and you miss out on some intentional family fun. Now back in June of 2011, so we're talking three years ago and time flies by. It was episode 164 and I included list of fun things to do in Ohio especially during the summer. So if you need a little help with your bucket list, just head over to, find the show notes for episode 164 and have at it. Lots of great suggestions for you there. And tell you what, to make it even easier, if you look in the show notes for this episode 290 over at I'll include an easy link to take you to that list.


I'll call it, "Family Fun Summer Activities in Ohio," how was that? Nice and easy. One more quick item of business and then we'll get to today's topic. Our 700 Children's blog is available at and some recent topics include, "What a Sickle Cell Disease?" "How to Navigate the Internet for Health Information," "Got a Summer Cold? Hold Off on the Antibiotics," and we'll tell you why. And "Why You Should Use a Spacer with a Pediatric Inhaler." So be sure to check out those topics and more over at our sibling blog, and you can find it at Alright, so what are we talking about this week? As you can imagine medical encounters can be extremely stressful for kids and not just kids, grownups too. Whether it's just a quick check-up, or immunizations, or a fever, or an itchy rash, add a severe ear pain, ear infection, or belly ache, or broken bone into the mix and of course the stress level rise.


What about when a child needs an overnight admission to the hospital, or has a new diagnosis of cancer? What if they have to stay in the hospital a week, or a month, or longer? What about when they get poked and prodded every day? And what about kids facing painful test and scary procedures? The kids who really truth be told would rather be in school, or home where they can get outside and run, jump, and play. So lots of stress for sick and injured children. And not just for the kids, for the brothers and sisters, and the moms and dads too. Really the whole family is affected, and it's not just stress. Children with chronic illness can miss out on developmental opportunities, academic progress, recreational activities. Really they can miss out on being a kid, on living life. And doctors and nurses are focused on the medical issues. But what about the kid issues, who's looking out for those? Well here at Nationwide Children's Hospital and in many children's hospitals around the country, this important job falls in the hands of a child life's specialist and I have two of them joining me in the studio today. 


Danielle Behnke and Elizabeth Pastorek, and together we're going to dive into our child life program here at Nationwide Children's and find out what it's all about. So fascinating stuff today, we'll get them settled into the studio in a moment. First I do want to remind you that PediaCast is your show. How do we get ideas for our topics? Well they come from you, and that includes today's topic. Meg in Memphis, Tennessee wrote in she said, "Hey Dr. Mike I have a possible subject that I don't think you've covered before but maybe of interest to the parents listening. I started a new job last fall as an emergency department technician at the children's hospital here in Memphis. I love the job and I'm gaining some much needed experience and skill as I looked to applying to a medical school this summer. Don't worry Ohio State is already on my AMCAS application. My hospital is lucky enough to have several child life specialists that work with the staff in the emergency room and they are the jewel of our department. 


There is much they do that I would not have known about had I not been working alongside them. I thought that would be wonderful for you to talk about child life specialists and the position they have at children's hospitals. I think every parent should know about them and ask for them because they have made such a huge difference with the kids where I work. Thank you for the podcast, it's been a great educational source for me for the past few years, Mheg." Well thank you for the topic idea Mheg. Your wish as they say is my command and as we move forward there're probably plenty of you out there thinking I really wish you would talk about this or that. Well whatever your this or that is, let me know. It's a simple thing to do, just head over to and click on the contact link. I also want to remind you, the information presented in PediaCast is for general educational activities only. We do not diagnose medical conditions or formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. So if you do have a concern about your child's health, be sure to call your doctor and arrange a face to face interview and hands-on physical examination.


Also your use of this audio program is subject to the PediaCast terms of use agreement which you can find at Let's take a quick break and we will be back to talk about child life right after this.


Dr. Mike Patrick: Alright we are back. Two of our child life specialists here at Nationwide Children's Hospital join me in the studio today to talk about our child life program.


Including the goals of the program, how child life benefits young patients and their families, how the child life specialists integrate themselves into the medical team, and introspective look into the everyday job of the child life specialist including the rewards and the challenges, what kind of training you need to be a child life specialist, and tips and educational opportunities available for those interested in seeking this career path. So please join me in warmly welcoming Danielle Behnke, hi Danielle.

Danielle: Hi. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: I want to thank you for stopping by, really appreciate it.

Danielle: Thank you for having us.

Dr. Mike Patrick: And Elizabeth Pastorek.

Elizabeth: Hi.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Hi Elizabeth how are you?

Elizabeth: Good, how are you?

Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. Really appreciate you stopping by.

Elizabeth: Thank you for having us.

Dr. Mike Patrick: So we're going to jump right into this. Danielle if you could just give us a definition the term child life, what it does really mean? 

Danielle: So child life is the developmental and the emotional support for children, and families, and the health care environment. Like you mentioned we know that being in the hospital is a scary experience for some children and families so we want to recognize that and support them with whatever experience they're having. 


So we're here to provide them with the individualized care, support, education, in order to help minimize the stressors they might have, and to then effectively help them cope with the experience.

Dr. Mike Patrick: So they really feel more at home when they're in the hospital environment.

Danielle: Exactly.

Dr. Mike Patrick: And Danielle what sort of goals then does the program have?

Danielle: Well one of our main goals as we've said is to help minimize the stress and fear often experience by infants, children, adolescents, and their families starting a health care experience. You know, we know for a healthcare professional like us, being in the hospital feels normal and it feels comfortable. However for the children and families we work with it may not feel like a really comfortable environment and they might not understand things that are happening. So that's when we come in to make sure that we can provide them with the education and support that they need. We know that children learn, they process information differently. So the education we give them needs to be geared towards their developmental level and what questions then concerns they have as a child and a family.


We're also focused in supporting the patient's emotional, developmental, social, and their cognitive growth while they were in the hospital. We often offer opportunities for fun and safe play during the hospital experience so they're able to engage a normal activities in spite of being in a really challenging circumstance so they can still experience fun. Another one of our department goals is to help support children and families, and continuing living everyday experiences. So we know a child can still have a birthday when they're in the hospital, we still celebrate holidays, whatever milestone that's important to that family, we want to help them support that and celebrate it and acknowledge that experience for them. We also offer really cool special events throughout the year that are focused in really enhancing their hospital experience. 

So some of you might have noticed, we had some super heroes window washers that came this year.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, that was great.

Danielle: Yeah, so our patients got to watch it from their bedrooms and from the playroom as well. So they they've got to say hi to their superhero friends.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That is fantastic. I mean, really as we've said kind of in the intro just helping them to be a kid still while they're in the medical environment. Elizabeth how do a child life specialist fit in to the overall medical team?

Elizabeth: Well essentially everyone in the medical and inter-disciplinary team holds a piece of the puzzle when it comes to the child's care. We all have goals, some of them are similar, some are different, and some of them even overlap. But that's why it's so much more important that we work together as a team in order to provide the best care that we can for that patient and family. As child life specialist we definitely feel that we can act as liaisons between the patient, family, and medical team. We can advocate for them and we can also empower the patients and families to advocate for themselves.


When a child is in the hospital so much emphasis is placed on their physical well being and while that is extremely important and typically why they are even hospitalized to begin with. We definitely need to remember that like you said, the child is still a child. So we definitely try to put a lot of our focus on their emotional well being as well as their development because supporting these factors are definitely going to help them better cope with the hospital experience and everything that they're going through.

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I think it's great to have someone who's really paying attention to that. That's their job because as doctors and nurses it is really easy for us to get focused in on just the medical facts and the treatment plan, and here's what we're doing, and then we have to move on to the next patient because there's so much going on and we have to take care of all of these kids from medical stand point. So it's really nice that there is someone who's clear focus is really supporting the families in this way.

Elizabeth: Oh yeah, definitely.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Now what type of training is required to be a child life specialist?


Elizabeth: The certified child life specialist credential is actually issued through our national organization, the Child Life Counsel. It is based upon both academic and clinical experiences as well as completion of the child life professional certification exam. At minimum we're all educated with bachelors and masters degrees in child life, child and family studies, psychology, or another related field. We have all also completed a child life internship. There's definitely going to be some changes going on as far as what is required in the future so we ask for those listeners who are interested for the most recent updates please visit

Dr. Mike Patrick: And I'll give them good information for what kind of training. And that's the professional organization for this? Great. So we kind of looked at it from an overview, let's kind of drill down into some more specifics. Danielle, let's talk about development first. 


So a child is obviously developing and there are things that we encourage parents to do at home to aid in helping kids meet developmental milestones. When they're in the hospital how does child life help families meet developmental growth of kids? 

Danielle: We offer a lot of different resources developmental that meet different stages of life. We recognize that play is such an important part of a child's life in development. It's really how they learn and it's how they grow. So we are trained to provide not only their resources for families to engage and play but also the interventions that are going to be geared towards specific developmental goals that we might have for that child, or that the family might have for the child in general. So we know that by using play in the hospital environment we're able to provide a sense of normalcy. Play is what children do outside the hospital so by bringing into the hospital environment we can give them a feeling of a normal environment.


We can also offer play and therapeutic opportunities for them to help communicate things to us. We know that like children learn and process information differently, they also communicate information to us differently as well. So by using play we can either observe things that they're maybe experiencing emotionally in the hospital, they might have questions they might tell us through play. So that information is really important for the whole medical process if a child has a question, we want to help answer it developmentally appropriate way. That information cannot only help us help meet their further development goals but also help the medical team as a whole. And when we offer play opportunities we can also give children an opportunity for a sense of control. We know that when a child's in the hospital they often lose a lot of opportunities for choice and control and we unfortunately cannot give them a choice over whether they're going to have a procedure, or if they're going to take their medicine. 


But I think the really cool thing about child life is that we can come in to that patient's room and we can get them from the outside simple choices of would you like to play today or what would you like to play today? And we can offer them some developmentally appropriate ideas of things that they can still do in their patient room. And even the act of saying no to us is therapeutic for a child who has lost a lot of control in this environment.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That's a really good point. I mean there is so much out of the kids control when they're in the medical environment to be able to have some choices and someone who seems like they care about what their choices are really must help support them. What about the older kids, do you have opportunities for recreation? 

Danielle: Absolutely. So we offer age based activity groups throughout the week where children can have the opportunity if able to leave their room, interact with peers of their own age. We offer a lot of different games they can play together. For our teens we have teen based activity group so that they can socialize and interact in games together as well. 


We know for some of our young children, our school age boys they really enjoy things like basketball and even girls as well. So we can help adopt their recreation purposes outside the hospital into their hospital environment. So we have resources that we can bring in like basketball hoops that go over the door or other target ideas to really encourage them to get up and move.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Yeah, that's great. Now education is also a concern especially for kids. I guess you can kind of look at education in two ways. I mean one is education about the disease process that the family is going through, and then also just schooling if for kids who may be in the hospital for a long period of time. Elizabeth, talk a little bit about how child life meets the educational needs of kids.

Elizabeth: So basically we want to assure that our patients feel educated regarding the hospital setting. So that may include medical equipment, medical procedures and maybe even their diagnosis. So we definitely want to prepare them in order to increase their comfort and understanding and we can prepare them utilizing preparation books and photographs. 


And this is so that they might know the sequence of events of something that might be happening with them in the hospital as well as the sensations that they might experience. Kids learn and cope better when they understand what is going to be happening with them through the five senses. So what they might see, hear, feel, smell, and so on and so forth. We also educate our kids through the use of medical play where we try and familiarize them with medical equipment that they're going to be seeing during their hospital experience or medical encounter. And overall goal with this is just for them to achieve some control and some mastery over their environment. It's also a great way that we can clear up any misconception that a child might have regarding their hospital experience. We need to be sensitive to the fact that children do not think the same way that adults do, so they might be confused about something as simple as an IV placement. 


So we definitely need to be sure to be sensitive to this and be able to explain things to them as best as possible. Young children have what we call magical thinking where they have unrealistic thoughts and make unrealistic connections. They overall just tend to fill in the gaps of information they don't know with false information. So it's really important for them to have concrete hands-on explanations and experiences in order to better help them cope with being in the hospital and what they might be going through. As child life specialist we definitely try and model that to our patients and our staff.

Dr. Mike Patrick: What kind of resources do we have in the hospital in terms of providing educational materials to families?

Elizabeth: Well as far as providing educational materials about their diagnosis, I know our medical teams do a great job in making sure that the families feel comfortable and educated with everything that the patient and family are now learning about. 


They do have some great resources in our family resource center that's also known as the Blue Jackets room. So families can definitely get really great resources in there as far as a new diagnosis or may be something that they have to take home with their kid if the kid is going home with a central line or G-tube, something that they have no knowledge of, they can get education down there and we have some great nurse educators down there as well.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Part of the Nationwide Children's Hospital library, we also have a family health information center there which has a great educational resources for patients and families as well. Really just lots of resources and you can help facilitate making sure parents get plugged into the right place. Now what about doing school? Let's say they're in the hospital for prolong period of time but they're well enough to still keep up with academic work. Do you help them with that in any way? 


Elizabeth: So we do have some hospital based school teachers that are actually hired through Columbus public schools and they work throughout our hospital to help patients with their school work and to kind of keep them on track so that they can kind of keep up with their classmates, they can connect with their teachers at their schools which is really nice.

Dr. Mike Patrick: yeah, that's great. Let's talk a little bit about a specific thing that's a little bit more near and dear to my heart working in the emergency department. I know if a child is going to have a particular procedure we can call child life to come into the room to sort of help them through that. Danielle talk a little bit about what your role is with helping kids get through procedures.

Danielle: Sure. Once we get a consult from a doctor, or a nurse, or family member we can then go into that room and like a list to talk about. We can provide them with preparation and education before the procedure starts. So we can let them know who's going to be in the room, this is what you're going to see, what you're going to hear. 


We know that when the unknown to something is often more scary than the actual act of the procedure. So by preparing them for those separate things we can not only let them know what to expect but we can also help them start to develop an individualized care plan and how we as staff are going to best support them through their experience. We know procedures are something that can cause a child to feel stress, pain discomfort so we want to help them as much as we can to make it as comfortable as an experience as we possibly can. So the first thing we try to do is educate, create a plan and then we can actually be present during the procedure itself. So a lot of kids really benefit from what we call distraction or alternative focus. So instead of looking at the IV star, they're going to look at a game on the iPad, or they're going to look at a book with us, or blow bubbles to encourage deep breathing. So we have a lot of different tricks and tools and coping techniques that we can help to facilitate but the things that we have are things that we can encourage family members as well.


So we can either be a support to the child or we can be a support to the child and family member. So if that family member wants to be present, we can give them the resources and the education to know what to expect and really know how to best support their child. Since that child knows that mother or their father best, so we want them to feel empowered to be a part of it. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: I know we have a lot of staff members and residents in such who listen to this program. So I would just encourage, if you didn't know that that resource's available, definitely use it.

Danielle: Absolutely. We want to be consulted, we want to help in whenever way we can.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Elizabeth, tell us a little bit about child life hospital tours.

Elizabeth: Our outpatient surgery and surgery center provide an on-sight tour called the welcome walk, and this is to help patients and families that are going to be experiencing an upcoming procedure. It basically includes a tour as well as the opportunity to interact with medical equipment they might see, and to also share questions, concerns, worries that they might have. 


Basically the overall goal is to make their upcoming experience a more positive one by allowing them to see what they can expect in advance.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That's a great idea. I mean it's going to be a lot less scary if they've seen it when they're not in the stress of having to actually be there to have something done.

Elizabeth: Yes, agree.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Is that something that they would call the schedule ahead of time?

Elizabeth: Basically to request a tour, they can complete our surgery tour request form which is on They can also call 614-722-2929.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. And I'll put a link to the online form in the show notes for this episode 290 over at Now I think we've kind of cover this question, in terms of child life meeting the psycho-social needs of children. I mean really just that whole stress and family support, and helping them through play, and facilitating just that whole structure of being a kid within the hospital. Is there other thing that you can do to help with psycho-social support?


Elizabeth: Well when we talk about psycho-social needs of children, it's basically meaning that we need to take into account the child as a whole and all of the aspects that might affect their ability to cope with being in the hospital. So factors can be many things, it can be personal which is temperament, behavior, it could be family life, distance from home, religion, culture, it can be a lot of different factors. So basically it's our job to globally assess this and carry out the appropriate interventions for that child and family. Every child and family's going to be different, have different unique needs. So it's definitely important that we remember that what we need to provide will also be different and unique.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. And part of what they need to support with is not just themselves but the whole family. Danielle how does child life support the needs of the siblings, and the moms and the dads?


Danielle: Well as we know when a child is hospitalized, our in for a doctor's visit, the child and the family they come as a package deal. And we want to make sure that the family members are feeling just as supported as the children. We know that when a mother, or a father, or any family member is feeling anxious or stressed in the environment, that's directly going to impact that child's ability to cope. That makes supporting the family so important. So we're there to listen to family members about things that may be going on. We encourage them to tell us information about their children, about their family dynamic so that we can use that information to better support them. We really encourage family members to utilize self care activities as well. We want them to be present. We know that the child is going to cope more effectively when the family is present providing support, but that family also needs to rejuvenate themselves so that they can continue to be a really strong advocate for their child.


Dr. Mike Patrick: I think when parents recognize that they're under stress, then they can better choose their responses to their kids. In the emergency department parents can be very stressed and then before you know it they're yelling at their children and it's really not that they mean to be yelling at their children, it's just their response to their stress. So kind of by helping them to have support you may reduce some of that.

Danielle: Exactly. And people react to stress in different ways. So we're there to help facilitate those conversations. We might not always have the answers about things but we are there to be an advocate for them. So if they have questions about their child's medical condition, what's going on? We can come right back to you guys, the doctors and let you guys know that this is something they would love to talk to you about.

Dr. Mike Patrick: You'd mention the family resource center which is sponsored by the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation which is an NHL hockey team and some of the things that they have there for families, they offer haircuts, massage therapies, stress reduction classes, infant massage, journaling, lunch and learn, they have a toy lending, library, and they also help to connect families to public support programs. I mean that's a really great resource that parents can utilize in the healthcare environment. 


And then we also have a sibling club house, this is a rally cool thing. Tell us about that.

Danielle: Well just like patients we know siblings have unique needs when a child is in the hospital. And the club house is a really cool place for brothers and sisters at Nationwide Children's age's three to 11, and it's really a place where these siblings can start to explore their own feelings and things that are going on. We know siblings can experience a number of different emotions, they can feel angry, they can feel sad, isolated, even jealous and those are all normal responses to when a family is in the hospital. And the club house is a place that they can explore those emotions in a safe environment with people who are trained to respond and help them process. So we have a medical play area in the club house which is really cool, they can go learn about the things that are happening to the sibling that's in the hospital, they can learn more about the diagnosis.


We have a child specialist that is focused just in that area to provide the support as well as sibling liaison that are there to support them. They have activities they can do, video games, self express of activities. There're a lot of great opportunities for these siblings to feel a part of the hospital experience but you have focus on needs that they have as well.

Dr. Mike Patrick: What age range are we talking with that?

Danielle: Usually three to 11.

Dr. Mike Patrick: And what the activities that you have inside the club house itself, what sort of things can they do other than the medical play?

Danielle: There's painting, they can play board games, there's video games and we have a journaling area where they can write either letters to their brother or sister, read books. So there're a lot of different developmentally appropriate resources for them to experience.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Now as a child life specialist do you rotate through working in the club house, or are there certain people who that's their job? How does that work?

Danielle: We do have one child life specialist that works just in the club house area.


Dr. Mike Patrick: Oh yes, everybody kind of envious your job or is that something that?

Danielle: It's a really great opportunity with my sibling, she loves it.

Dr. Mike Patrick: This is kind of directive for both of you. What tips do you have for parents supporting their children during medical encounters? Like what sort of things should be in the back of parent's mind as they're going into the medical environment with their kid?

Elizabeth: OK so I can kind of start with this. Basically we want parents to know that it's a completely acceptable for them to share information with the medical team especially if it's going to make the experience a more positive one for their child. You know they're the expert on their child so we definitely want them to keep an open line of communication with the medical team. We also want parents to know what they expect in terms of common reactions to stressful experiences. So crying, clinging, temper tantrums, even regression where a child act younger than their age. These are all reactions that a child may experience in the hospital.


We want parents to know that these can be common but they're also temporary in most cases. We also think that it's important for parents to be open and honest with their child regarding what is happening . Even if they're going to experience pain or discomfort. As previously discussed we can definitely try and prepare them for those experiences. Parents may wonder when is the best time to prepare my child. It really just depends particularly even on the age. So if it's a teen or an adolescent sometimes a week or two weeks, sometimes even three weeks in advance is appropriate. If it's a younger child sometimes just a day or two before. We also try and make sure that parents know it's critical for them to encourage self expression with their child. It's definitely Ok for a child to cry or express feeling scared or alone. The hospital can definitely be a scary place for children that have never experienced it and often times they even think it's a punishment. 


So we just want them to know that that is definitely not the case and our ultimate goal is to send them home safe and as healthy as possible. That's also why as Danielle had why play is so important in the hospital because it kind of bring something familiar into an unfamiliar setting which can really help. So if a child really enjoys connect four for instance they should be able to do that within the hospital setting. We also want parents to be if they are able to present as much as possible, and also to kind of keep a normal routine, something consistent because this really provides a safe, stable environment for the child and that sometimes really what they need in order to cope at with their hospitalization and medical experience.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. And i think to tell the true thing is so important. I mean as a physician I hear parents say, "You're not going to get a shot,… well I don't know you might have to get a shot. It's not good to promise things that you don't know for sure.

Elizabeth: Exactly. Giving them realistic expectations and we want them to know they don't have to do this alone.


We have staff like child life specialist, the doctors want to help them as well, the nurses. So we want to help them, let us know what we can do to support you guys.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That's great. What is typical day like for you guys? What's it like being a child life specialist? Or is there a typical day?

Elizabeth: I'm sure the ED, there's probably not a typical day. Every day is different and the same goes for child life. Depending on where we wok, we have child life specialist at Nationwide Children's, in the ED, and radiology, out-patient, and in-patients. So depending on where we work, our day is going to look much different. But the thing that we all have to really work at is have really great assessment and prioritization. We want to make sure that we're meeting the urgent needs of children and families and like their needs change in a daily and hourly basis so we're there to support them with whatever is happening. So we may start the day a great plan knowing who we're going to see but that can quickly change and it's really important just to be very flexible in our line of work.


Dr. Mike Patrick: Are you permanently assigned to one of those areas or do you rotate through?

Elizabeth: The majority of us are assigned to a particular area. Some of us do cover different floors during the day in the week but for the most part we're centralized in one location which is great for staff because they know who we are and we know who they are too.

Dr. Mike Patrick: What are your favorite or most rewarding parts of the job?

Danielle: For me personally I think it's amazing to see a child be a child again especially if they've been through a really tough time and difficult time at the hospital. Part of our goal is to create the sense of normalcy for them and to have them be a child. And seeing that this has been achieved can definitely make our job seem that much more worthwhile that we've positively impacted somebody in their family.


Elizabeth: And to go off from that for me, one of the greatest thing is to see a child who walks into the hospital feeling really nervous and really anxious and really get through a tough experience like a procedure or just some kind of difficult hospital been with pride, confidence, you see that smile on their face and they realize that they did it. And we taught them some coping tools but they were the ones that facilitated it and were able to do it.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That's great, that's really rewarding.

Elizabeth: It's important to remember that kids can definitely be really resilient in the hospital. We just need a help with those coping skills, and support them, and have care givers present.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. Now there must be some challenging parts of the job as well. What're the most challenging things?

Elizabeth: Well there's definitely just not enough time for everything we feel like we have to do. We wear so many hats with our jobs and as much as we embrace those hats, there's definitely not enough positions and resources for all we feel we have to offer. So it's really important for us to just kind of focus in on what we are doing that day and make that count and know that that is positively impacting another family out there.


Dr. Mike Patrick: Anything to add to that? 

Danielle: No, I completely agree with that. It's all the time trying to figure out how we can give the biggest impact in the hours that we have to offer.

Dr. Mike Patrick: I think for me it's just being honest. I think one of the biggest challenges for me would actually be working with the parents because, you guys are experts on child development and you know kind of how to alleviate child stress through play. But when the parent is also stressed and then sometimes that their stress comes out as negative behaviors toward their children. It's easy for the medical staff then to sort of judge that parent and say, "Well I can't believe they're treating their child like that," or you know "That they're talking to their child like that." But then when you look at it from the parent also being stress and understanding that that's their response to stress, I mean as a child development person it must be challenging to try to help that parent see their own feelings and put them into perspective .


Danielle: Exactly. We're often in crisis situations when there in the hospital so it's important to look at how people are reacting and respond to them in a way that's going to be supportive. And when family members are feeling stressed, we're there to support them too because they're never going to be the best support for their child in the long run.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely. And to empower them to appropriate responses and behaviors.

Elizabeth: And this is sometimes you know maybe even the most difficult day or week they they've experienced in their life with their child, so I think we definitely too need to be sensitive to that. Like Danielle said, just kind of figure out how we can best support the parents so that they can better support their child throughout this experience.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Absolutely.

Danielle: And you know sometimes it just comes down to validating their feelings. It's important for somebody to know that it's OK to feel upset and angry, let us help you get through this experience. Sometimes people don't know it's OK for them to feel the way they're feeling, kids and adults.


Dr. Mike Patrick: I mean, really you just want to come along side people and not necessarily try to fix everything.

Danielle: Exactly.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Tell us about the child life practicum. What exactly is that?

Elizabeth: So the child life practicum is an introductory experience meant to familiarize students with the child life profession within the hospital settings. So basically they're going to have the opportunity to shadow certified child life specialist within various areas of the hospital as well as begin to lead activity groups, makes assessments, and implement interventions within the close observation and supervision of a certified child life specialist. The experience is a minimum of 10 weeks, 12-16 hours per week.

Dr. Mike Patrick: So it's really an introduction for someone to say, hey is this really something that I would want to do as a career to put yourself into that place and see if it's something that you like.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. And we'll have more information on that in the show notes for episode 290 over at so people can find information about it if you're a student in the Central Ohio area.


And then Danielle we also have an internship opportunity. How does that differ from the practicum?

Danielle: So the internship experience is a more advanced student experience at the hospital. Like a list I've mentioned anybody who's interested in becoming a certified child life specialist is required to complete a minimum of a 480 hour clinical child life experience. So here at Nationwide Children's we offer an internship which is going to focus on that student's further development of the skills in areas of assessment, planning, implementation of situations and evaluating interventions. So the experience is 14 weeks in length and requires a time commitment of at least 40 hours per week. So it's basically a full time job for the students and like you mentioned if individuals have more questions about the experiences we offer here at Nationwide we encourage them to check out our website.


Dr. Mike Patrick: And then we're going to put a link to that in the show notes for episode 290 at What advice do you two have for someone who would like to pursue a career in child life?

Danielle: I think the number one thing that I tell students, if they are interested I really encourage them to check out our child life counsel website. That's where they're going to find the most up to date information on volunteer experience that they should have, work experience, course work. So it's really going to give them the best judge of what kind of things that they need to start working on to further their career. And of course you can check out Nationwide Children's as well, as well as

Dr. Mike Patrick: Great. We really appreciate both of you. Elizabeth did you have any other advice?

Elizabeth: You know basically what she said but also this is kind of one of those fields, you just really need to be flexible and be able to manage your time well and just understand that hospital time is different than every day time. So no matter how you are in your personal life, when you come to the hospital it's something completely different all the time.


Dr. Mike Patrick: If you're person who likes routine and everything exactly the same every single day, it might not be the job for you.

Elizabeth: Probably not. It's great to get some experience from us before you jump into it.

Dr. Mike Patrick: We do have some other links too in the show notes over at for episode 290. We'll have a link to child life at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Family and volunteer services here at the hospital, the family resource center at Nationwide Children's, the surgery tour request form, the child life practicum and child life internship opportunities and then we'll also a link to the child life counsel website. And as I've mentioned in the beginning of the program family fun summer activities in Ohio. Speaking of that I'm sure that you guys have fun stuff that you'd like to do in the summer. What's your favorite thing in Central Ohio to do in the summer time?


Elizabeth: Well this might sound really general but I think it's just nice to spend time outside no matter where you are. So just hanging out with your friends and family, enjoying the nice weather because we only get so many months of it in Columbus, Ohio. 

Dr. Mike Patrick: And especially after being coped up this winter, it is so great getting outside. I don't even mind the heat.

Elizabeth: So the pool, parks, anything.

Danielle: I really enjoy, I don't know if anybody's been to the Scioto Mile, they offer those free concerts on Fridays. Anything free with music I am all for in Columbus.

Dr. Mike Patrick: That is great. And our Metro Park system is really nice. I mean there're some great metro parks to be able to take walks and just to enjoy the outdoors.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, enjoy the sun.

Dr. Mike Patrick: Alright well we thank both of you for stopping by. Really appreciate it.

Danielle: Thank you so much for having us Dr. Mike.

Dr. Mike Patrick: We're going to take a quick break and I will be back to wrap up the show right after this.



Dr. Mike Patrick: Alright we have just enough time left to say goodbye and to thank everyone for taking time out of your day to make PediaCast a part of it. Really appreciate all the listeners out there. I also want to thank Danielle Behnke and Elizabeth Pastorek, both child life specialists here at Nationwide Children's Hospital for stopping by and telling us a little bit more about what they do. That does wrap up our time together. PediaCast is a production of nationwide Children's Hospital. Don't forget, PediaCast and our single topic, short format program PediaBytes are both available on iHeart Radio Talk which you'll find on the web at and the iHeart Radio app for mobile devices. Our show archive which includes now a 290 programs as well as our show notes, transcriptions, terms of use and our contact page are all available at the landing site which again is


We're also on iTunes under the kids and family section of their podcast directory. And you'll find PediaCast on Stitcher, TuneIn, Downcast, iCatcher, Podbay and most other podcasting apps for iPhone and android. We're also on Face book, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest. And of course we really appreciate you connecting with us there and sharing, re-tweeting and re-penning all of our posts so you can tell your own online audience about our little show. We also appreciate you talking us up with your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, anyone with kids or anyone who takes care of children. And as always be sure to tell your child's doctor about the show. Posters are available under the resources tab at And until next time this is Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and stay involve with your kids. So long everybody.



Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children's, thank you for listening. We'll see you next time on PediaCast.


And until next time this is Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and stay involve with your kids. So long everybody.



Announcer 2: This program is a production of Nationwide Children's, thank you for listening. We'll see you next time on PediaCast.




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