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Lancaster General launches new Child Life program to help kids cope with stress of hospitalization

LANCASTER — Lancaster General Hospital announced Tuesday the launch of a new program that helps children cope with the stress of hospitalization. The Chil...

LANCASTER — Lancaster General Hospital announced Tuesday the launch of a new program that helps children cope with the stress of hospitalization.

The Child Life program was initiated in November. Since then, the pediatric unit at LGH has had a dedicated Child Life specialist that meets daily with patients and families.

The Child Life program is part of LG Health’s broader commitment to advancing pediatric care, and one of the many enhanced features that will be part of the new Pediatric Inpatient Center opening this summer, the hospital said in a press release.

“Play and family are important parts of a child’s life,” said Michelle Schori, Executive Director, LG Health Pediatrics. “When a child becomes ill or injured, these normal activities and relationships are disrupted, often resulting in increased fear and stress. Child Life provides many opportunities to engage children in normal day-to-day activities, support their development and improve their ability to cope with the hospital experience.”

A Child Life specialist’s role includes:

  • Providing age-appropriate play and other activities that encourage mastery, coping and expression of feelings for both patients and siblings of patients.
  • Increasing familiarity with hospital surroundings and preparing children and families for medical experiences
  • Developing supportive relationships with patients and family members
  • Offering orientation to new experiences, such as a surgical procedure
  • Working closely with the family and with the health care team to minimize the stress of a hospital stay

“Some interactions involve games, playing pretend or interacting with a tablet,” said Michelle Arnts, LGH Child Life Specialist. “It is my role to explain medical experiences in age-appropriate ways that put both the child and the parent at ease.”

All Child Life specialists are bachelors or masters trained professionals with a certification in Child Life, LG Health says. The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the important role of the Child Life Specialist, and the month of March recognizes Child Life Month as a time that child-life programs across the world are recognized for the unique role they play on the health care team.

The Child Life program at LGH is supported by philanthropic donations, and is not a billable medical service. In 2017, the United Auxiliaries to Lancaster General Hospital made a leadership commitment of $500,000 to support the Child Life program through the Soaring to New Heights campaign, which raises funds for the new Pediatric Inpatient Center and supports and expands the Child Life program across the health system.

To date, $8 million of the $9 million campaign goal has been raised to create the new Pediatric Inpatient Center that will offer state-of-the-art design and care in a child and family-centered environment, the hospital says.

SOURCE: Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

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