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Child Life Services

Children in health care settings are faced with many different challenges, ranging from an unfamiliar environment to invasive and sometimes painful procedures. They often feel as if they have very little control and few choices in what goes on around them. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan child life department works as part of a comprehensive health care team to provide a variety of interventions and activities to alleviate the stress and anxiety of a hospital stay for patients and families.

Child Life staff incorporates non-pharmacological techniques, in conjunction with the medications prescribed by the physician, to help make patients comfortable. Listed below are some of the ways Child Life staff can assist patients with pain management. The techniques noted below are not suitable for patients in pain crisis.    

  • Art and Play allows children to express feeling and concerns when verbal methods are unsuccessful. It also provides an opportunity to detect/correct misinformation that patients may have.
  • Choices and control. Gives children simple choices to increase control whenever possible. 
  • Deep Breathing is used to teach children to take deep breaths and slowly blow away anything bothersome (pain or scary feelings). This also helps children relax and gives them a sense of control. Bubbles or pinwheels are often used with younger children to encourage deep breathing. 
  • Distraction involves using toys or age-appropriate activities that stimulate the patient so that they are not focused on the procedure or pain. Click here for further information on developmentally appropriate distraction techniques. 
  • Environmental Modification can help reduce stress for the patient and protect them from over stimulation. An example might include covering up medical equipment not relevant to the procedure to keep it out of the child’s line of sight. 
  • Information Giving establishes rapport with children and gains trust from the patient and family. Anxiety is often reduced when children are aware of what will be happening to them in an age-appropriate way. 
  • Modeling and Behavior Rehearsal teaches coping strategies for stressful events experience by children prior to or during procedures. This technique is practiced with the child and their family to help the patient cope throughout their hospital stay. 
  • Comfort Positioning can be used during procedures to give children some control and to feel less threatened.  

Pain is most effectively managed when providing a combination of non-pharmacological and pharmacological methods. They work best when they are introduced early and practiced with the child and his or her family.  

Child Life staff are professionals who are trained to work with children in medical settings and hold bachelor's degrees in the areas of child life, child development, early childhood education or recreation therapy. Child Life specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan are also professionally certified and affiliated with the national Child Life Council. A Child Life specialist is available seven days a week to ensure that each child's unique needs are met.

Contact Us
Children's Hospital of Michigan
Child Life Services Department
3901 Beaubien
Detroit, MI 48201
Phone: (313) 745-0064
Fax: (313) 993-7106