A day in the life of Child Life Therapist, Anne-Maree Leahy

At The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), Child Life Therapists engage, educate and empower children to promote effective coping strategies throughout their hospital journey. The program reduces anxiety in children and the need for more complex medical interventions.

Learn more about the important role Child Life Therapists play at the RCH through a day in life of Child Life Therapist, Anne-Maree Leahy.  

8am: I arrive at work and check my schedule for the day. We triage our patients early so that we can ensure we prioritise those patients who need the most support. 

9.30am: I’m up on the Cockatoo Ward and seeing my first patient for the day. They have been identified by the nursing team as likely to need some preparation for an IV insertion occurring later in the day. The patient is a little anxious but enjoys practising putting an IV in a cloth doll.  

10.15am: I’m requested by the clinical team to support the removal of a central venous catheter (CVC) for a patient on the Sugar Glider Ward so they can be discharged. Using a doll, I show the patient how we remove dressings and then engage them in some play with novelty sensory toys whilst the nursing team help remove their dressing and the CVC. Helping to reduce distress and the need for sedation where possible can help improve the flow of the hospital.  

11am: I hand out some game sheets to patients to help promote the hospital’s in house TV program, Hospital Lingo.  

11.30am: I head up to the Rosella Ward to have a bedside play with a patient. They enjoy helping me decorate a picture to put up on their wall to make their room feel more like home. Before I leave, I provide some toys to help encourage activity and movement in their recovery. I make a note to follow up with their physiotherapist and occupational therapist as we work closely to ensure the patient is hitting their goals.  

12.15pm: I provide some mask familiarisation to a patient who is fasting for theatre. Introducing the mask through play helps to normalise its use. The patient chooses to decorate their mask with stickers and chooses a flavour to put inside so that it smells nice when it’s time for their anaesthetic. I also answer some questions about how anaesthetic is different to regular sleep.  

1pm: Lunch!  

1.50pm: I head back to Cockatoo to help with the first patient’s IV insertion. I provide some suggestions to their parent to help promote a comfortable position for the procedure. The patient uses iPad distraction and is also able to follow some calm breathing techniques to help reduce anxiety during the procedure.  

2.30pm: I assess a patient to see if it might be appropriate to complete an awake MRI instead of needing an anaesthetic. There are lots of opportunities to teach the patient about what they might see, hear and feel during an MRI. Including any important sensory information in our preparation helps to reduce any surprises in the actual procedure. I let Medical Imaging know the patient appears to be a good candidate to try an awake scan.  

3pm: I complete patient notes and clean returned toys and resources and store them away for the next patient.  

4.15pm: Home. 

To support vital programs and initiatives like the Child Life Therapy program, donate to the RCH Foundation today.