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Child Life Services

Support for Children Receiving Medical Care

The Child Life Department is an essential part of Children's Hospital's focus on family-centered care. Child Life staff members are trained and dedicated specifically to one crucial part of a child's daily life: play. Our Child Life Specialists ease anxiety through the power of play in a constructive, healing and educating manner. We currently have 15 staff members that serve as cheerleaders, confidantes and advocates to patients who may be frightened by or unfamiliar with the hospital setting. Beloved by patients, the Child Life Specialists at Children's Hospital believe in the power of play as a method of healing, growing and developing.

How it Works

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The field of Child Life began from the understanding that hospitalization can have a long-term negative impact on normal growth and development because of the stress it puts on children and their families. By assessing a child through play, a Child Life Specialist can gain insight into ways to help the child cope with the hospital experience. Children who receive a new diagnosis of a long-term illness are provided with as much additional attention as possible. Clinical nurse specialists (educators) provide technical information, and then the Child Life Specialist follows up with hands-on activities that reinforce the child's learning.

Facts About Child Life at Children's Hospital

Anna Taylor and friends with Child LifeStarted in 1978, the Child Life program was the first program of its kind in Tennessee and predates the Association of Child Life Professionals, which is the governing body of the field. Since then, the department has grown to cover all inpatient units, the Emergency Department, outpatient clinics, outpatient surgery and the Radiology Department.

Here are some more interesting facts about Child Life at Children's Hospital:

  • Child Life staff at Children's Hospital are available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, even on holidays.
  • Child Life staff and students offer a program to the kindergarten classes in Knox County Schools. The program, called "Hello Hospital," provides hands-on play with medical equipment and a fun video explaining a visit to Children's Hospital. The goal is to reduce fears and anxiety related to a hospital visit.
  • The Child Life staff helps patients and families celebrate holidays, birthdays and other family events that occur during the child's hospitalization. Donations from the community allow Child Life staff members to provide children with gifts on these occasions.

Child Life is supported by Spirit of Children all year long - but especially at Halloween.

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Child Life Internships and Practicums

East Tennessee Children's Hospital offers a Child Life internship program, where college students can work beside child life specialists in the hospital setting. If you would like information about our internship, including requirements, or if you would like to apply for an internship at Children's Hospital, please download and complete our Child Life internship application form below. ETCH follows the ACLP internship application deadlines. The Child Life internship position at Children's Hospital is unpaid.

Child Life also offers practicum experiences. Deadlines for practicum applications are:

  • Summer Practicum - Deadline: February 1
  • Fall Practicum - SORRY, NOT OFFERED IN 2022
  • Spring Practicum - Deadline: October 1

The Application forms are below.

ETCH follows the ACLP internship application deadlines

Child Life Services