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news News Tuesday, March 24, 2020 Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:47 PM - Tuesday, March 24, 2020 1:47 PM

March is Child Life Month!

Meet our dedicated child life specialists

March is Child Life Month!

Child life specialists are integral at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston. They work compassionately with our patients to help reduce the stresses associated with their care. This has never been more important than now, during this time of unprecedented anxiety created by COVID-19. Our child life specialists, Rebecca, Brooke, Danielle and Hillary, have come up with creative ideas to keep our patients engaged and occupied. They put together goody bags with games and toys for patients who can no longer play together during this time of social distancing, and are regularly finding new approaches to teach coping skills in a safe environment. Read on to learn about our team’s special focus areas. While many of these activities have been suspended while we safeguard our patients, families and staff, we look forward to the time when we are back to business as usual.

Rebecca has worked at the Boston Shriners Hospital for over 10 years and primarily works in our outpatient clinic and operating room.

Q: What do you do as a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: My role as a certified child life specialist involves helping to put children at ease when they come into our clinic with a new burn injury. I let them know what to expect, and gather information about the child’s coping and adjustment to their injury so far. We come up with a coping plan that will set them up for success. This could include talking to a mother about using a comfort position for her toddler during an appointment, or helping a child learn techniques to manage discomfort during a dressing change.

Every patient is different, and their fears and concerns vary. Some children want to process everything that happened, while others are really avoidant. With each approach I focus on the strengths of the family.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: One of my favorite programming activities is facilitating teen groups with one of our social workers. Providing our adolescent and young adult population with a forum to meet one another is truly powerful. As clinicians, we aim to foster self-confidence in our interventions, but it is most compelling when teens are able to share their own experiences and empower each other.


Brooke has been working at the Boston Shriners Hospital for five years, primarily on the inpatient unit and in the operating room.

Q: What do you do as a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: I help our patients cope with stressful interventions, normalize their hospitalization and develop positive skills for resiliency. Surviving a traumatic burn injury is no easy feat, and anyone who has worked with our patients will tell you that they are some of the strongest, bravest and most determined individuals we’ve ever met. Through self-expression, identification of coping skills and therapeutic activities, we help our patients regain control, build mastery, and even use imagination and play to heal. This could mean doing a balloon release for a sibling who passed away, playing with medical equipment to desensitize and normalize fears, or identifying newfound strengths with a teen.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: In addition to providing clinical support to our patients and families, I also run and coordinate our pet therapy program, which currently consists of a visit from a certified therapy dog twice a month. Interacting with a therapy dog gives our patients the opportunity to engage in a healing activity with a furry friend who is non-judgmental and offers affection. The human-animal bond is so unique, and we are “fur-ever” grateful that our patients can seek comfort from Lincoln, Olive, Liwali, Juno, Maya and Duncan during their times of need, helping them to smile, reflect and be silly, if only for a moment.


Danielle has worked at the Boston Shriners Hospital for a little over a year as a part-time child life specialist.

Q: What do you do as a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: My role here is to help lessen anxieties and fears often felt by children of all ages throughout the whole hospital. For instance, in the OR, I assess the child’s understanding of the impending treatment and ask about any previous anesthesia experiences. I normalize the experience by giving every child choices to decorate their own anesthesia mask and pick a delicious scent. To make the mask less scary, we may play with it by practicing deep breaths on a stuffed animal. Offering choices or roles gives the whole family a sense of control and empowerment in a situation that can be overwhelming.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: One of my favorite programming activities is helping to facilitate Team Brave, which is a community reintegration program where volunteers from the Boston Firefighter Burn Foundation and members of the child life team take kids and teens out for a day of fun. Whether it is bowling, yoga, aquarium visits or painting, the goal is to encourage kids to be independent, grow in confidence, develop friendships and boost their self-esteem in social settings. Lastly, I am thrilled to move forward in implementing an Equine Therapy Program for the kids, so stay tuned!


Hillary has been working at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston as the senior child life specialist for five years. Prior to her time here, she spent two years in the Galveston Shriners Hospital as a child life specialist on the acute burn unit.

Q: What do you do as a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: From the moment a patient and family arrive on our inpatient unit, they are assigned a primary child life specialist. During the acute phase of care, the child life role focuses on emotional support, rapport building, support during difficult dressing changes/procedures, diagnostic education and normalizing play! I focus on caring for patients on our inpatient unit and in our perioperative space.

Our goals during this time are to support the patient and family through the reality of their injury while building a foundation from which to understand what has happened and move forward from it. We are educators, developmental specialists, confidants, translators, comedians, advocates, sibling supporters, head scratchers, bubble blowers and “purple people” (the color of our scrubs!) during this time.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a child life specialist at the Boston Shriners Hospital?

A: One of my favorite programs to be involved in is our School Reentry program. This is a unique and dynamic resource available to patients returning to their community post burn injury. Our program has been modeled after and adapted from The Journey Back: Resources to Assist in School Reentry after Burn Injury or Traumatic Loss by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

Research has shown that by assessing barriers, uniting the hospital and school communities, and creating a well-coordinated and supportive re-entry plan that involves both faculty and students, students can have a successful reentry into their school and community. By providing age-appropriate information and resources to students and faculty, we are able to positively respond to questions that inevitably arise.

Each re-entry process and presentation is tailored to the individual patient and family by a trained group of reentry staff. By helping students, teachers, families and patients find the balance between inquiry and empathy, we are able to pave the way for what is often a stressful but vital milestone in the life of a young burn survivor.

Thank you Rebecca, Brooke, Danielle and Hillary for your selfless dedication to our patients!

Rebecca with patient and another therapistBrooke with patientDanielle with patientHillary with patient