Child Life Therapy touches young lives

At The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), Child Life Therapists engage, educate and empower children to promote effective coping throughout their hospital journey. They provide interventions such as medical and therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and distraction support for children during procedures and assessments.  

Child Life Therapists are supported by philanthropy to work across different departments and areas of the hospital, and a new grant from the RCH Foundation will see their services extend within the Emergency Department (ED). 

Their interactions with patients and their families have a profound impact on their hospital experience.  

“I’m really proud of our team and the impact they have on patient experiences at the RCH. It can be a really challenging time for many patients and families, but everyday our team see the impact of how children and young people can cope if we give them the developmentally appropriate preparation and support they need,” said Anne-Maree Leahy, a Child Life Therapist at the RCH. 

Child Life Therapists work to turn medical procedures into chances for connection, and design interventions that foster both physical and emotional healing.  

“Each patient really needs an individualised approach; giving them some control and letting them direct the support we can provide can be really powerful for a patient. 

“The ED in particular is a busy place. When patients are presenting, often very unwell, it can be challenging for them to understand and cope with the interventions and assessments needed to treat them. We know that the first medical experiences in the ED can shape ongoing coping during hospitalisation so an opportunity to get in early and shape these experiences feels like it could have a significant impact,” Anne-Maree shares. 

The funding provided by the RCH Foundation is enhancing more than just the patient experience, it’s providing specialised training and essential resources for staff across the hospital. 

“It’s a busy role and it can be challenging for our team to train up new staff whilst also keeping up with the large number of referrals we get. The training modules supported by the grant have really improved our ability to support new staff and keep up with our referral list,” said Anne-Maree. 

“The impact of a patient who is well prepared and emotionally supported through their hospital experience has huge benefits in reducing the risk of medical trauma. The support of philanthropy through this grant means we can be working to support their emotional wellbeing and ultimately, lifting the child’s voice in their healthcare experience from the start.”