6 Cool Things to Know About Mott’s Child and Family Life Team

March 28, 2017 7:00 AM

Learn about the many ways a specially trained Mott team makes hospitalization more comfortable for young patients thanks to a host of fun tools and tricks.

Maybe you’ve seen one of them hunting for Pokémon with a patient in the hallway. Or seen another giving a 4-year-old’s My Little Pony “medication” from a special IV.

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Fun and games? All in a day’s work for the Child and Family Life team at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

But the play has a purpose, too.

You might think you have a pretty good idea of what our child life staff members do all day, but here are a few facts about their work that may surprise you:

Yes, our job is to have fun

It isn’t uncommon to find one of us playing hockey in the hallway with a patient or helping choose accessories to play dress-up. This might look like we’re just playing, but what you’re seeing are evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions. We use therapeutic play to prepare and educate pediatric patients of all ages, thus reducing fear, anxiety and pain.

We actually went to school for this

Although playing might seem like it comes naturally to us, we all have developmental training and education — which means we hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, completed special coursework and met clinical experience requirements before taking a professional exam.

We use really high-tech equipment

OK, so we have a fart machine that can be rigged up to patients’ favorite stuffed animals. But we also use iPads to teach kids about the procedures they’ll undergo. Our music therapists use equipment and software to mix songs and create music videos with our patients. Our art therapists have high-quality cameras they use to help patients learn photography skills to help them cope creatively. And our patient technology manager uses augmented reality and virtual reality equipment that the savviest gamers would drool over.

Every specialist is different

There are more than 50 people on our team, and each one brings something special to Mott. Many of our staff work out of specific units in the hospital, allowing them to really get to know the needs of kids with certain conditions. We also have team members in our emergency department and several outpatient clinics. On board, too, are hospital teachers who help children keep up with schoolwork.

We like to party

No chance for a good time goes unnoticed. We love to help kids celebrate milestones in their treatment. Child life staff organize special events and holiday parties for our patients and families. We help patients commemorate birthdays and graduations — and sometimes even prom! We love to celebrate your milestones.

It doesn’t cost patients (or parents) a thing

Everything we do is supported through the generosity of donors who have made a conscious decision to help kids and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury and treatment. The toys, paint, sewing materials, bubbles, video games, musical instruments, tiaras and, yes, even the fart machines are all made possible through donations. Every dollar counts, and a donation is easy to make.