A child’s experience related to healthcare and hospitalization can be overwhelming for both the child and their loved ones. It can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control, and isolation, which can have negative effects on their physical and emotional health.

The Valley Hospital’s Child Life Services team is available to support children and families through this experience.

What Is a Child Life Specialist?

Child life specialists are child development professionals who work to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in healthcare settings and other challenging environments. They provide evidence-based, developmentally, and psychologically appropriate interventions that promote effective coping through play, self-expression activities, age-appropriate medical preparation, and education. They interact directly with the patient and their loved ones to assist in reducing fear, anxiety, and pain.

Child life specialists are advocates of family-centered care and work in partnership with doctors, nurses, social workers, and other members of the patient’s care team to meet the emotional, developmental, and cultural needs of each child and family.

At Valley, all patients are eligible to see a child life specialist.

Services Offered

The following services are offered by Valley’s Child Life Services team:

  • Play and other activities, including opportunities to be creative, socialize, and learn
  • Therapeutic play, including medical play, to help children express fears and feelings and learn techniques for coping with stress or crisis
  • Relaxation training, distraction, and coping support before and during medical procedures
  • Education about medical diagnoses and treatment; age-appropriate preparation for tests, procedures, and surgery
  • Family member support, such as sibling orientation for Intensive Care Unit visits or support for parents to assist their children during medical procedures
  • Coordination of special events and donations for patients and families
  • Support for children of adult patients, including working with children to explain a parent or caregiver’s new diagnosis; working with children whose caregiver is at the end of life, explaining death in age-appropriate terms; and legacy work, including handprints and memory making

The Child Life Services team collaborates and works with other departments at The Valley Hospital, including Pediatrics, Diagnostic Imaging, Endoscopy, Laboratory, and more.

Patient Benefits of Child Life Services

Research has shown that children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety and will have a better long-term adjustment to medical challenges. Child life interventions can also increase cooperation and help to reduce procedural and post-procedural pain.

Additional patient benefits include comfort, education, self-expressive activities, play, decreased anxiety, assisting in coping, and more.

Our Team

lee russethLee Russeth, MS, CCLS

Lee Russeth, MS, CCLS, is an experienced child life specialist at The Valley Hospital with more than 12 years of experience. Lee enjoys her role as a child life specialist, as she can “meet the child where they are at” and assist them in their mastery of the medical environment.

Lee received a master’s degree in Child Life from Bank Street College in New York City, New York.

If you are interested in obtaining child life services for your child and family, ask your physician or a healthcare administrator to be connected with Valley’s Child Life Services team.