Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Child Life in the NICU: Research proves we belong!

NEW LINK! (Sorry about the lack of access! Let me know if there are any issues!)

Call me a nerd, but I got so excited this afternoon when I happened upon a newly publicly released research article analyzing the role and benefits of child life specialists in the NICU! 

During my internship, I spent about 8 weeks in a very large surgical NICU. In all honesty, when I received my assigned rotations I was a little bummed. BUT I do not lie when I say this was the experience of a life time. I learned SO MUCH, that I prayerfully will be able to utilize someday.

(Remember reading the abstract is not the same as reading the results and recommendations of the researchers! Be an informed Child Life Specialist! We do enough advocating for our skills and expertise. Go the extra mile and know the latest research that validates your stance.)

Family-Centered Developmentally Supportive Care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Exploring the Role and Training of Child Life Specialists
Jessica G. Smith
Children’ s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Pittsburgh, PA
Priti P. Desai and Natalia Sira
Department of Child Development and Family Relations, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Stephen C. Engelke
Division of Neonatology, The Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC


Child life specialists provide family-centered, developmentally supportive care for infants in the NICU. However, there is limited research concerning this role. Using an online survey, this study explores child life specialists’ responsibilities in the NICU, training received for this work, and perception of team integration. Results indicate the top three tasks performed were sibling support, palliative care/bereavement support, and family education. Developmental care tasks were ranked foremost for time prioritization. Training regarding NICU role was achieved through assorted methods. Less than half respondents felt integrated with the interdisciplinary team. Recommendations for specialized training and research implications are outlined. 

If you've been looking to branch your child life program to your NICU, this may be just the article you were looking for to show your director or manager. Or maybe you are currently in the NICU and have been looking for other ideas of services you could provide as a child life specialist. This article may spark some ideas that you've been desperate for! 

Are any of you in a NICU? What has been some of your obstacles? What are your favorite services to provide? What advice do you have for those just starting out? We want to hear from you! 

To hear more about mine and Sydney's experience in the NICU, check out our post about our experience in the NICU over on Child Life Mommy here



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