Making hospital visits less scary for pediatric patients

By Kristen Brown, Child Life Specialist at Golisano Children’s Hospital

I have yet to meet an adult who likes going to the hospital.

Imagine what it’s like for a child – doctors with surgical masks, gloves, and hats; nurses with needles and syringes full of medicine; big words being thrown around and separation from home. Those are just side effects, if you will, of being in the hospital, and don’t even begin to consider the injury or illness that brought them to the hospital in the first place.

Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida recognizes that hospital environments inherently cause additional stress and anxiety for pediatric patients. We’re here to help them get better, but the setting doesn’t always scream “welcome.”

That’s why Golisano Children’s Hospital employs highly skilled medical professionals who are instrumental in reducing fear, anxiety and pain for children. Certified Child Life Specialists take the lead in making our pediatric patients feel comfortable in what is often an uncomfortable environment.

Courtesy of Caronchi Photography

The goal of this team of child development experts is to ensure that life remains as normal as possible in the health care setting. Child Life Specialists create age-appropriate activities in the playroom, teen lounge and bedside, and coordinate educational services so children with extended stays don’t fall behind academically.

Our specialists also use play to teach. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 50% to 75% of children develop significant fear prior to surgery and additional procedures. Pre-surgical tours of the hospital help to familiarize them with the facility. Special teaching dolls help break down medical terminology into kid-friendly words so each child can understand what is happening to them. Using syringes for a painting activity can help ease a child’s fear of medical equipment.

Courtesy of Caronchi Photography

Child Life Specialists not only take the time to prepare children prior to their medical tests and procedures, but also accompany them to those procedures, a service that plays a key role in decreasing stress levels, not just for the patient, but also the parents.

In procedure and operating rooms, a Child Life Specialist might be the only familiar face in a sea of strangers.

The cost of a Child Life Specialist at Lee Health, however, is not reimbursed by insurance. Through support of community members, organizations and businesses via the Lee Health Foundation, Golisano Children’s Hospital employs ten Child Life Specialists who are helping children and families cope with illness, injury, disability and hospitalization.

Courtesy of Caronchi Photography

One of those community partners is Spirit Halloween, which operates stores in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Port Charlotte.

Through its Spirit of Children program, the company has contributed more than $174,000 to Golisano Children’s Hospital to support pediatric care through the work of the Child Life Department. Nationally, it’s raised over $45 million since 2007 to support hospitals in every state.

As you contemplate this year’s Halloween costume, please visit to download a coupon for 10% off at Spirit Halloween. The company will then donate 10% of proceeds from your sale to Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Buying a scary costume for Halloween just might help make a hospital stay less scary for children in Southwest Florida.

About the Author

Kristen Brown, Child Life Specialist at Golisano Children’s Hospital, is part of a team of child development experts who help ensure that life remains as normal as possible for patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.