March is Child Life month, and for over 50 years, the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program has been enhancing the lives of patients at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach by striving to create a positive, healing environment. The program was developed to offer developmental, educational, and emotionally appropriate support to patients ages 0 to 21, by easing anxieties and speaking to children in the language they understand. In addition, Child Life events and playroom activities provide a sense of normalcy and fun for patients while they’re hospitalized.
There are more than 20 certified child life specialists who are available seven days a week throughout the children’s hospital. In addition, since Miller Children’s shares a campus with Long Beach Medical Center, child life specialists provide support and help children cope with their parent, guardian, or other loved one who may be hospitalized in the adult hospital.
“We know kids need more than medicine on their healthcare journey, and our Child Life team helps children and families cope with what may be a very unknown experience for them,” says Rita Goshert, director, Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program. “I truly believe that Miller Children’s & Women’s hospital provides the best possible care for our patients and families. Our Child Life Program really sets us apart from other hospitals.”
Through the Child Life Program, patients can enjoy medical play before procedures or surgeries. Child Life specialists use medical play to teach pediatric patients about their upcoming procedures, helping them understand the reason for what exactly the physician and care team will be doing.
The Child Life Program offers enjoyable and entertaining activities such as bedside sibling visits, pet visitation, arts and crafts, board games, and special events for patients who are unable to leave their rooms to help uplift their spirits and help them cope.
Some of the special events they hold each year include “Beach Day” and “Santa’s Workshop,” where booths are decorated to theme and Miller Children’s & Women’s staff and volunteers play games with the patients and hand out fun prizes and goodies. Over the years, the Child Life Program has made it possible for patients to receive visits from their favorite DisneyTM and MarvelTM characters and have even received surprise visits from Angels baseball players to brighten up their days.
“As child life specialists, we are always looking to positively impact the hospital experience for these children and being able to put a smile on their face is incredibly rewarding for us.” says Goshert.
The Child Life Program continues to strive to create an engaging, fun, and comfortable environment for its patients and families, while also making hospital visits easier.