The Power of Play: Child Life at Arkansas Children's

In this podcast, we talk with Brianna Shannon and Sarah Frantz, two child life specialists at Arkansas Children's, about the importance of being a child life specialists.

During your visit to the hospital, child life specialists can reduce your child's anxiety and promote positive coping. This may be accomplished through diversion during procedures by focusing your child’s attention on something fun and relaxing, as well as ensuring your child has a developmentally appropriate understanding of their procedures and hospitalization. Our hospital embraces family-centered care and encourages family support during visits. Child life specialists will work to promote a positive coping experience for patients.

Preparing for Upcoming Procedures

If your child is scheduled to have a procedure, a child life specialist may help prepare and teach you and your child what they may experience. The purpose of procedural teaching is to reduce anxiety and let the patient explore and ask questions about their upcoming procedure in a safe setting. Specialists may use medical play, teaching dolls, medical equipment, and pictures of the rooms and people your child will see to prepare them for sensory experiences of their upcoming procedures. Patients may participate in a pre-operative tour of the hospital, encouraging your child’s understanding of the hospital setting. For more information on pre-operative tours, please contact the child life department.

Medical Play

During your child’s visit to the hospital, they may encounter a variety of medical equipment for the first time. Child life specialists use medical play to help your child learn about the hospital and express feelings related to the medical setting. Using real medical equipment and engaging in play, your child can gain a sense of control and understanding. Medical play encourages children to explore medical equipment's purposes and take an active role in their health care experience.

Play is a safe and familiar activity for your child during stressful times such as hospitalizations or medical procedures. Child life encourages your child to continue playing at the bedside and in activity rooms located in the hospital to promote recovery, normal development, and independence. Medical procedures are not allowed in activity areas; therefore, children see playrooms as safe.

NOTE: If your child is in isolation or has had a fever in the last 24 hours, they may not be able to attend activity rooms. Activities and toys can be borrowed for your child to play within their room.

Siblings and Visitors

Siblings and friends provide important support and encouragement for families during your child’s hospitalization. Siblings and friends may be visiting a hospital for the first time, experiencing new sights and emotions. Child life specialists are available to prepare minor visitors (age 17 years and under) before visiting patients to reduce potential anxiety and offer a safe setting for questions about the patient and their condition. Units may have visitation guidelines specific to their areas. Please check with your child’s nurse prior to arranging any visits for minors.

For the safety and well-being of our patients, we ask all visitors to be healthy when visiting the hospital.  All visitors will be asked to complete a wellness screening and should not have a cough, runny nose, congestion, fever or diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, we ask that you stay home until 48 hours after symptoms stop. Please note, additional visitor restrictions may occur during flu season to reduce the risk of spreading contagious diseases.

For more information on visitor policies, please visit our Visitor Rights and Responsibilities.

We offer a child life practicum in summer only. The practicum is a full time, three-week, 120-hour program. Child life practicum students may be assigned rotations that include evenings, weekends, and holidays. Practicum students must be affiliated with a college or university. Please note, we are currently unable to accept non-affiliated students.

The practicum curriculum incorporates child life programming and addresses challenges and strategies related to current healthcare issues. Benefits to students may include the following: opportunities to observe hospitalized children and adolescents, increased comfort with the hospital environment, increased practical knowledge of child life, and in-service training.

Please return completed application by:

Practicum Start Dates: June and July

Application Deadline: January 5

Attention: Arkansas Children's Hospital will be unable to host Fall 2024 Interns. We will not accept applications until the Spring 2025 session.

Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock internship, accredited by The Association of Child Life Professionals, is offered twice a year. Interns are given opportunities to build independent professional skills, therapeutic group play supervision skills, and develop assessment & intervention skills with patients of diverse ages and varying diagnoses. Internships are available in the spring and fall semesters and are full time (40 hours per week), 15-week, 600-hour program. Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock follows the Association of Child Life Professionals recommended internship deadlines.

The internship curriculum incorporates child life programming challenges and strategies to address current health care issues. Students experience the following schedule of rotations with one clinical supervisor per rotation.

  • Two Week Internship Orientation
  • 1st Rotation: Six weeks
  • 2nd Rotation: Six weeks
  • 3rd Rotation: One week

Rotations may include but are not limited to General Medical and Surgical units, Hematology/Oncology, Orthopedics, Neuroscience/Neurosurgery, Rehabilitation, Emergency Department, and Intensive Care units (Cardiovascular, Neonatal, Pediatric, and Burn). Child life interns may be assigned rotations that include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

To be eligible for Arkansas Children's Child Life Internship, applicants must have:

  • Affiliation with a university is required at time of application due date. We are not able to accept unaffiliated interns. Please list affiliated school in the Optional Additional Information Box within the Internship Readiness Common Application.
  • A minimum of 100 practicum hours under the direct supervision of a certified child life specialist in a hospital setting. Practicum must be completed prior to application due date. Must be included in relevant experiences section of Internship Readiness Common Application.
  • Eligibility assessment with 10 courses approved by the Association of Child Life Professionals. Child life course MUST be completed prior to application due date. All other courses must have completion date prior to internship start date.
  • Please see additional requirements located within Child Life Intern Application located below.

Contact Child Life

For additional information or questions regarding child life, please contact Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock at 501-364-1412 or Arkansas Children’s Northwest by calling 479-725-6800.

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