Child Life Corner

Building on a Legacy

By Laura Mitchell, CCLS

The role of the Child Life Specialist has always been to support patients and their families as they navigate the healthcare experience. In 1955, Emma Plank’s initiatives at Cleveland’s City Hospital helped to educate families and physicians alike about the impact that illness and hospitalization can have on children.  Plank is considered the founder of the Child Life profession and though the core principles of Child Life have changed very little since her groundbreaking work, perceptions of our role have been evolving since the very beginning.

In her collaboration with the Society for Pediatric Society Sedation, Kristine Murray contributed to this evolution.  She brought awareness to our profession and demonstrated how our expertise could support patients and their families during the sedation experience.  She advocated for developmentally appropriate pre-procedural teaching and procedural support.   She was the voice of Child Life in SPS.  This was no more evident than in Hartford this past May.  The impact of our work, and Kristine’s efforts in particular, was seen throughout the conference.  We were thanked by physicians, quoted by nurses and honored by our colleagues.  It was an amazing experience and I was humbled to be a part of it.  My only regret was that more of my fellow Child Life Specialists were not able to share in the experience.

But this may soon change.  The Kristine K. Murray Child Life Award will not only recognize the work of talented and dedicated Child Life Specialists, but it will also help them attend the annual conference and hopefully increase the Child Life presence in SPS.  In honoring her, this award honors the work of all Child Life Specialists.  An increase in Child Life membership will allow us to play a more active role in advancing initiatives and developing protocols.  In particular, Child Life participation on the Allied Health Committee provides an opportunity work more closely with our nursing colleagues.  As a group, we can begin to look not only at how Child Life interventions can eliminate or reduce the need for sedation, but how we can collaborate with sedation providers to improve the overall patient experience.  We can explore not only the benefits of One Voice, but how to embed it into the culture of our respective organizations. We can look at how to improve the sedation experience for patients with autism spectrum disorders.  And this is just the beginning.

Stay tuned to the SPS website for more information on the process for nominating outstanding child life specialists for the annual Kris Murray award.

To quote Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”  To Emma, Kristine and all those who have come before us, thank you.

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