UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s Child Life program brings the “Healing Power of Play” home

On any given day, 50 to 70 percent of patients at the University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital are restricted to their rooms due to their medical conditions and aren’t afforded the opportunity to participate in the interactive events occurring in the hospital playrooms. But that will soon change, now that the UF Health Child Life Program has received one of seven national “Healing Power of Play” grants.

The $16,605 grant was awarded by the Mattel Children’s Foundation and administered by the Children's Hospital Association.

The “Healing Power of Play” grant will enable the Child Life Program to address the psychosocial needs of isolated patients by increasing their access to therapeutic interactions. Funds will be used to develop a library of specifically designed play kits, a “mobile playroom” and multisensory cart, and technology-enabled software applications, all of which will be available to isolation patients.

“We know that being in the hospital can be an unhappy experience for kids, especially if they aren’t able to explore the playrooms and other activities due to illness or infection control protocols,” said Christina Brown, director of UF Health’s Child Life Program. “We also know that play is one of the very best ways to counteract feelings of boredom and stress. That’s why we’re so pleased to have been selected to receive this grant. It will enable the Child Life staff and volunteers to deliver specialized play experiences to the bedside and make the hospital stay that much more positive.”

Pre- and post-implementation evaluations will be conducted and the successes of the project will be shared with the child life community through on-site seminars and workshops at regional and national conferences.

“We are very proud of the continuous advances in our Child Life Program and are grateful to the Mattel Children’s Foundation and our other community partners for supporting these efforts,” said Scott A. Rivkees, M.D., chairman of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine

The dedicated team of professionals in the UF Health Child Life program at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital work in collaboration to support a positive patient and family experience and to minimize the stress and anxiety associated with hospital visits. Primary services include the provision of age-appropriate education about diagnoses and medical procedures, emotional support and promotion of effective coping techniques, and the delivery of therapeutic play and creative arts activities to facilitate expression and positive adjustment. Child Life staff work closely with UF and other community organizations to coordinate special entertainment events and maintain an active playroom program.

“Through generous support of organizations like the Mattel Children’s Foundation, our Child Life program is able to develop innovative and enriching programs to help the children and young adults in our hospital heal faster and alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of being hospitalized,” said Mark Amox, administrator of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.