The Child Life Program

A hospital stay is an intimidating experience, especially for children and their families. Child Life Services comprises a team of trained pediatric professionals that serve as advocates for children and their families. The program creates a positive experience through proven strategies. Their goal is to reduce the stress and anxiety related to the hospital experience while promoting positive coping and optimal development.

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What is the Child Life Program?

Our program has a family-centered model of care that focuses on:

  • Developing coping strategies that meet the needs of the child and family
  • Assessing a child’s developmental needs and ensuring children continue to meet their milestones
  • Preparing children for tests and procedures in child-friendly language and in a child-friendly environment
  • Educating children about their diagnosis in a way appropriate for their developmental level
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety related to hospitalization
  • Advocating for the needs and wishes of the child and family

Medical Procedure Preparation and Support

Research has shown that children immensely benefit from having a solid understanding of medical procedures or tests they will experience in the hospital. From IVs and bloodwork to MRI and Surgery, Certified Child Life Specialists help break down every step of these and other procedures in a way that is appropriate for children. Preparation allows them to feel empowered and confident in their ability to face the challenges of hospitalization. Child Life Specialists ensure that children and families have the tools they need to successfully cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness and/or injury. Some of these techniques include:

  • Translating detailed medical information and terminology to children in language they can understand
  • Preparing children for tests and procedures using real medical equipment and specialized medical play dolls/tools
  • Providing diversion, alternative focus and distraction to reduce pain, fear and anxiety during painful or invasive procedures
  • Accompanying children to procedures and explaining each step as it is happening using child-friendly language

Child Life aims to provide psychosocial and emotional support to help families faced with traumatic experiences. They develop coping care plans, educate children about the hospital and help children and families understand and process grief, trauma and bereavement. Child Life Specialists strive to provide exceptional family centered care and reduce the negative psychological impact of hospitalization.

Pediatric Palliative Care Program

The Pediatric Palliative Care Program is designed to provide an extra level of psychosocial support to those children and families facing chronic or life-threatening illness or injury. These diagnoses often result in frequent or prolonged hospitalizations, increasing the level of stress for the child and family. The Pediatric Palliative Care Team consists of a multidisciplinary team including two Certified Child Life Specialists. The goal of the Pediatric Palliative Care Team is “to add life to the child’s years, not simply years to a child’s life.” - American Academy of Pediatrics

Child Life Services on Adult Units

Certified Child Life Specialists are available by consult to adult units to provide services to children of adult patients who receive a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis. Child life specialists can provide psychosocial support, legacy building, and memory making services to help children to process and cope with the feelings and grief associated with the loss of a loved one. The team can also provide resources to other family members regarding how to explain illness or death to children as well as teach family members techniques to support children through the grief process once they leave the hospital.

Child Life Services in NICU and Maternity

Certified Child life Specialists are available by consult to provide services for families facing a poor perinatal or neonatal prognosis. Child life specialists are trained to explain these delicate situations to siblings and other family members and to provide legacy building/memory making opportunities.

Meet Our Certified Child Life Specialists

Sara Patterson, BA, CCLS, CPMT
Certified Child Life Specialist
Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist
Pediatric Palliative Care Team
Sara.Patterson@hackensackmeridian.org

April Slowenski, BS, MEd, CCLS, CPMT
Certified Child Life Specialist
Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist
Internship, Practicum and Volunteer Coordinator
April.Slowenski@hackensackmeridian.org

Samantha Nocito, BA, CCLS, CPMT
Certified Child Life Specialist
Certified Pediatric Massage Therapist
Pediatric Palliative Care Team
Samantha.Nocito@hackensackmeridian.org

Kellie Maas, BS, CCLS
Certified Child Life Specialist
Certified Infant Massage Educator
Kellie.Maas@hackensackmeridian.org

We welcome volunteers to join our team! If you are interested, please contact Volunteer Services at 732-776-4177.

Donations and Special Visitors

The Child Life Program is grateful to the generous members of our community looking to bring a smile to our patients of all ages. If you are interested in donating in person or being a special visitor please contact our department to learn more about our guidelines. If you would like to support our program via our online wish list, please visit http://hcf.starlight.org/hcf/profile/index/id/1909/

Child Life Internship and Practicum

The Child life internship at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital offers a well-rounded program for interns to gain crucial skills needed to become a successful child life professional. The child life program at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital wants to make the most of each intern’s unique strengths and abilities, while helping them to continue to grow and develop their clinical skills.

April and Rebecca InserviceInternship Program:

  • Follows the Child Life Council Application Deadlines
  • Accepts the Child Life Common Application
  • Requires a completed application checklist, please contact April Slowenski for more details. (Incomplete applications will not be considered)
  • Is a minimum of 600 hours over a 16 week period
  • Is typically offered every Spring and Fall
  • Accepts both university affiliated and unaffiliated interns
  • Accepts 1-2 Interns per semester

Practicum Program

  • Is a minimum of 200 hours over a period of 11 weeks
  • Is designed to prepare child life students for an internship experience
  • Is typically offered in the Summer, but may be offered at other times of the year
  • Contact April Slowenski via email for application information and requirements

Please contact April Slowenski for more information about the Child Life internship and practicum programs. Completed internship and practicum applications can be mailed to:

Jersey Shore University Medical Center
Child Life Department
Attn: April Slowenski, CCLS

1945 Route 33
Neptune, NJ 07753

Contact Information

To learn more about our Child Life Program, please call 732-776-2541.

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