Get to know our child life specialists
March 23, 2022
CHoR child life specialist painting with a patient in the hospital

    Children’s hospitals are unique – and child life specialists are one of the many reasons why!

    What’s a child life specialist?

    Coming to the hospital or having a procedure can be scary. Child life specialists have training to help kids prepare for, understand and cope with their medical experiences. They’re also skilled in providing age appropriate distractions, making the health care setting a bit less stressful and more fun for the whole family.

    Our child life team is growing! Child life specialists now work with patients and families in our acute care, PICU, emergency, outpatient, radiology and mental health settings. We asked them a few questions to get to the heart of who they are and how they help.

    The child life team at CHoR

    Katie Barber, CTRS  l  ASK Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic

    1. CHoR child life specialist Katie BarberHow old were you were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I always knew I wanted to work with children. While doing my senior internship in the recreation therapy/child life department at Brook Road (before it became CHoR), I learned all about child life and knew that was what I wanted to do. I returned to work at CHoR and became dual certified in child life and therapeutic recreation.
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Interacting with the kids. I truly learn something new from them every day.
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      Play outside all day!
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Any Amelia Bedelia book
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      With my background in therapeutic recreation, I of course find a type of recreational activity to distract kids. Our kids in clinic spend many hours here so teaching them new games or having them teach me a game helps me get to know the child better while keeping them distracted from all aspects of their visit.

    Meredith Burns, MS, CCLS  l  Inpatient hematology and oncology

    1. CHoR child life specialist Meredith BurnsHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      19, when I learned about child life as a career option on a college tour
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      The moment patients understand the medical procedure they’re having, and feel empowered they can make it through
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      Spend the day playing at the pool, then going to a fair in the evening where I can go on the rides and eat all the yummy food with my family
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Love You Forever
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I love using the light spinner wand as a distraction item, because it works with pulling a patient’s attention across many ages. The vibration really helps soothe infants.

    Kaitlyn Call, MS, CCLS  l  Outpatient clinics at the Children’s Pavilion

    1. CHoR child life specialist Kaitlyn CallHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was 20. Since I was a little girl, my dream has been to work with children in a health care setting. I’m so thankful I discovered the child life specialist profession!
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Nurturing a child’s bravery and confidence in an environment that can feel unfamiliar and overwhelming. It always brings a smile to my face when I witness a child feeling empowered after successfully completing a procedure that appeared impossible at first. I am so grateful this is a part of my job!
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I would play on the beach from sunrise to sunset and delight in the slower pace of life. My day would consist of jumping over waves with my little brother, watching my grandfather catch fish that my grandmother would later make for dinner, enjoying a messy popsicle, building sandcastles with my dad, running back and forth into the water, and going on a walk at sunset with my mom. 
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Amelia Bedelia
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I love using books as a distraction technique during procedures, as well as a method to build rapport with patients and families. Diving into a story together allows patients to redirect their attention to the colorful images or a specific character they relate to and helps shift their focus while in an anxious state of mind.

    Madison Carroll, CCLS, CPST  l  Emergency department

    1. CHoR child life specialist Madison CarrollHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was a sophomore in college when I first learned about child life specialists. After sitting in a presentation about the child life field I knew this was the profession I wanted to pursue. 
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Making a positive impact (no matter how big or small) each day on patients’ and families’ lives
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I would love to go to an amusement park and get excited to go on all the big kid rides! 
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      The Princess and the Pea
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I’m showing my favorite distraction item – a bubble machine! It’s a fun/interactive sensory item for kids of all ages. During a procedure, we count the bubbles or make a competition to see who can pop the most bubbles. 

    Allyson Fiery, MS, CCLS  l  Acute care

    1. CHoR child life specialist Allyson FieryHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was a sophomore in college when I found out about the field of child life. I ran into one of my neighbors at Panera who told me she was a child life specialist. I looked at my mom afterward and thought “that’s what I want to become.” And here I am, eight years later, doing what I love every day. 
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Being a voice and advocate for our patients and families to help communicate their needs during what often is one of the most stressful and vulnerable times in their lives
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I would transform my family room into a classroom and teach all my stuffed animals that I collected as a kid.
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      I grew up loving Kipper and Arthur books.
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I’m holding an iSpy book. During IVs and blood draws, I always try to give my patients as much control as possible. I make sure to ask if they want to be able to see the nurse placing the IV in their arm or if they want me to block their view. A lot of children don’t want to see the procedure happening, so the iSpy book is a great distraction tool.

    Siri Garrett, MS, CCLS, CEIM, CPST   l   PICU

    1. CHoR child life specialist Siri GarrettHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      17, when I started volunteering at UMass
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Supporting children as they develop confidence in advocating for themselves during procedures or medical play
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      Play outside and read in a treehouse
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Oh man, there are SO many books I loved as a kid (and still do!) – we’ll say If You Give A Mouse a Cookie
    5. What are you showing in your photo? 
      I love coaching (i.e., talking) kids through procedures. These are some phrases I use.

    Shannon McWilliams, MS, CCLS   l   Acute care

    1. CHoR child life specialist Shannon McWilliamsHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was a junior in high school, so I think 17
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Having the privilege to walk patients and families through traumatic experiences especially with families that are facing the loss of a child. I consider it a true honor to be a small part of their journey by giving them the safe space to express themselves, establish coping plans and build empowerment.
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I would make more messes, play a bit longer and have more fun!
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Because of Winn-Dixie
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I’m holding the most popular item among most patients these days – pop-its! I love providing patients the ability to build a coping plan for procedures that prioritizes their developmental needs for mastery and control. These coping plans oftentimes include incorporating various sensory experiences like pop-its.

    Molly Norris, MS, CCLS   l   Virginia Treatment Center for Children

    1. CHoR child life specialist Molly NorrisHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was first introduced to the role at 21 during a psychology internship at Dana Farber Jimmy Fund Clinic in Boston.
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Connecting with kids while helping them discover their own source of resilience and competence in a health care setting – also, remembering to be playful and have fun!
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      Climb trees and make forts in the woods with friends
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Tacky the Penguin
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      Since safety is high priority at VTCC, I often use a “Where’s Waldo” book instead of an iPad to help with alternative focus during procedures or returning patients to their coping baselines after an emotional experience. I use this cheeseburger backpack to carry around all my de-escalation tools and medical teaching supplies because there is always an opportunity for support or education!

    Hailey-Marie Ragan, MS, CCLS   l   Radiology in the Children’s Pavilion

    1. CHoR child life specialist Hailey-Marie RaganHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I knew I wanted to work in health care when I was in high school, but I didn’t find out about child life until I was 19. Once I did my research, I completely fell in love with this career.
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Seeing a light bulb go off in a child when they understand their procedure and they successfully cope with it is the best!
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I’d go to the beach to play in the sand and waves!
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
    5. What are showing in your photo?
      This is me in our fluoroscopy suite, which is decorated like a forest complete with animals and hot air balloons, wearing my lead apron! I’m holding my favorite child life tool – a breathing ball! This cool sphere expands and retracts, helping children practice deep breathing during their imaging. Deep breathing and relaxation are so helpful for these studies.

    Heather Rossi, BS, CCLS   l   Acute care, PICU, Virginia Treatment Center for Children

    1. CHoR child life specialist Heather RossiHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was 14 and a counselor at a camp in Missouri for kids who had cancer.
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Helping adults be honest with kids about hard things
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      Play outside, eat donuts and take a nap
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Zoomer’s Summer Snowstorm or Railroad Hank
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      I love being a child passenger safety technician and teaching families about how to properly install and use car seats!

    Paige Whitcomb, MS, CCLS   l   Primarily burn unit with extra coverage for PICU, acute care and the ER

    1. CHoR child life specialist Paige WhitcombHow old were you when you decided you wanted to be a child life specialist?
      I was 21. While volunteering in the hospital during college, I learned about child life for the first time by meeting a child life specialist, and knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I changed my career path that week.
    2. What’s your favorite part of your job?
      Using preparation to explain procedures and diagnoses to kids – I love finding the right language to help kids understand and cope better!
    3. If you could be a kid again for a day, what would you do?
      I’d spend a day swimming and tubing at my grandparents’ lake house with all my favorite people I grew up with.
    4. What’s your favorite children’s book?
      Charlotte's Web
    5. What are you showing in your photo?
      My favorite distraction tool to use in procedures – my light wands!

    Discover more about the support our child life specialists provide for kids and families at CHoR.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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