Child Life Corner

May 31, 2019 by

Child Life Specialists & the Non-Sedate Radiology Program
by Joyce Thompson

Q: What are Child Life Specialists?
A: Child Life Specialists are experts in child development who work to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in health care settings and other challenging environments. They promote effective coping through play, self-expression activities, and age appropriate medical preparation and education. The Children’s Hospital currently has 7 Child Life Specialists working throughout the inpatient and outpatient pediatric areas.

Q: What is the latest with this team?
A: The newest area for provision of Child Life Specialist coverage at UVA is in the outpatient radiology areas. This program was developed after a successful trial that proved that Child Life Specialist coverage instead of traditional sedation and anesthesia would:

  • result in considerable cost savings
  • reduce waiting time for scheduled MRI’s
  • increase patient safety by decreasing medications
  • provide supportive patient and family centered care for our pediatric patients and families.

Additionally, extensive research has shown that children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety and have a better long term adjustment to medical challenges.

There are currently 2 Child Life Specialists (2.0 FTE’s) in the radiology areas that currently cover MRI’s, CT scans and VCUG procedures. They also partner with the radiology interdisciplinary health care team to assist with pediatric patients undergoing other painful procedures or experiencing high anxiety and fear (i.e. IV starts).

Although the radiology Child Life program is only a few months old, there have already been substantial results:

  • January: 31 procedures, 12 phone consults
  • February: 36 procedures, 13 phone consults
  • March: 31 procedures, 17 phone consults
  • April: 18 procedures, 46 phone consults

January’s results exceeded the initial goal of reducing 20 radiology sedate procedures per month (which had shown during the trial would save 250K/year). In February, the MRI scheduling wait time for pediatric patients decreased from 4 months to 2 months. The number of phone consults more than tripled in April. The time reduction and increase in consults will reduce service loss, increase parental and patient satisfaction, and continue to grow the program.

Q: How can I learn more?
A: To learn more about how the Child Life program can assist you, please contact Joyce Thompson at

Filed Under: Features