Geisinger Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Child Life Department

The Child Life Department at Geisinger is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month coinciding with Child Life Month. It is a time to celebrate child life specialists at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital (JWCH) who support pediatric patients and their families through play, education and emotional support.

“Child Life’s presence at Geisinger has been long standing and incredibly impactful,” said Dr. Frank Maffei, MD, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “Their 40 years at Geisinger predates the construction of our JWCH and the services they provide to our children are indeed foundational and essential.”

In the program’s early days, specialists focused on playroom activities that encouraged socialization and self-expression, normalizing the hospital environment, providing support for patients and family members of chronically ill patients, supervising volunteers in the inpatient setting and event planning to gather donations for funding.

The team also offers medical play to work through feelings and understanding of medical experiences, preparation for tests and procedures, pet therapy, and serve as liaison to the CSIU Hospital School Teacher Program so children don’t fall behind in their academics while hospitalized and more.

15-year-old patient, Leah Williams and her family have had a positive experience with a child life specialist at JWCH. Leah was officially diagnosed with “ALG 13 mutation” in 2014. This condition is a rare disorder and disease-causing variants in ALG13 have been reported in fewer than 20 individuals. Leah’s diagnosis means that she has a seizure disorder, a severe developmental delay, and hypotonia.

“Child Life has helped Leah cope and feel comfortable while being at the hospital. Our child life specialist Rose Lauck noticed that Leah responds well to physical touch and enjoys having her arms, feet, and hair rubbed. Rose also makes sure there are things for Leah to look at or listen too while being seen. When it’s time for Leah to have a procedure, she stays with us and provides continuous reassurance. The support has been tremendous, and we are grateful for it,” said Krista Williams, Leah’s mom.

Today, the Child Life team has grown to 12 certified child life specialists who support patients admitted to the JWCH inpatient setting, both at Geisinger Medical Center and Geisinger Wyoming Valley, and children visiting various pediatric outpatient subspeciality clinics. This includes hematology and oncology, gastroenterology, cystic fibrosis and orthopedics clinics, same day surgery, sedation services and the emergency department.

“The 40th anniversary of our Child Life Department is a celebration of our past, present and future. The continued growth of our department is a result of both the hard work the team has invested over the years and the strong working relationships they have built with members of the multidisciplinary team,” said Rebecca Drumheller, Geisinger’s Child Life Program manager. “Our programming continues to expand as these creative, flexible, out-of-the-box thinkers take the initiative to improve upon the services we provide for our patients and families,” she added.

To learn more about Geisinger’s Child Life services, special events or how to make a donation, click here.