Our Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy provides care and support designed to meet the unique needs of children and families as they cope with illness, injury, treatment, hospitalization and the overall healthcare experience.
Patient Media Program
Matt Piontkowski: Patient media programs is a part of the Child Life Department here at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and we are responsible for working with the patients and families to kind of normalize the patient experience here. We do that through a variety of different ways: programming in the studio, special events both in our main spaces as well as up on the unit.
Andrea Dillard: Our Patient Media Program produces over 25 hours of live television content weekly. That content consists of different types of game shows, a televised radio show, a morning news program, private karaoke for our patients and families to come down and enjoy singing and dancing.
Eric Newby: Seacrest Studios is our internal and centralized radio station. That was provided to us by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. It is our base of operations to put on all sorts of different shows, house all sorts of new pieces of technology and equipment, and really be this fun, safe place for patients to come down or to call down and interact with us.
Dee Rodriguez: Galaxy 51 is CHOP’s internal television network. We are able to broadcast to over 500 television screens throughout the entire hospital. Patients and families are able to interact with us through Galaxy 51 by just calling down to 55555. They can hear themselves on air and they can also see themselves on TV if they join us here in our studio. Our patient media mobile carts provide patients upstairs in their units with an opportunity to do different type of gaming, whether it’s virtual reality where they get to play some stuff in different type of virtual sets. They can also be a DJ as we have DJing equipment on our cart, so they can kind of mix their own songs.
Eric Newby: All of our events are amazing, but some of the best ones are our movie nights where we get the latest movies while they’re in theatres and we can bring those movies to CHOP and to the patients in the form of movie night.
Matt Piontkowski: My favorite event at CHOP, it’s called “CHOP Idol.” “CHOP Idol” is a talent show that is dedicated to our patients in which they can submit a short, talent video of any kind and then they get to actually perform it live on the show day.
Dee Rodriguez: So, our Child Life Department is really lucky to receive a ton of generous donations. We get a lot of monetary and non-monetary donations. We’re really lucky to get them because they directly benefit our patients here at CHOP, whether they’re outpatient or inpatient and it also directly benefits the families as well.
Eric Newby: Working at CHOP is seriously one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done in my life.
Dee Rodriguez: This team and the Child Life Department in general is really focused and dedicated on making the hospital experience as normal and as fun as possible for the patients and the families.
Andrea Dillard: One of the best aspects of my job is the impact that we make on children and the impact that they make on us. The moment that kids step into our studio, we do not discuss anything medically, so they’re able to just be kids.
Eric Newby: The Patient Media Programs is this awesome chance for so many patients to experience something fun, creative, or at least have control over something in their lives.
Matt Piontkowski: Some of these families are going through what might be the hardest times in their lives and our job is to just make that experience a little bit better. Our team really coincides with the mission of the Child Life Department of helping a family heal and cope through their journey, but the media team really wants to create memories that these patients will never forget.
Child Life Specialists
Sara Dellavolpe, BA, CCLS, CIMT: Child Life Specialists helps patients and families to cope with being in the hospital. We help to reduce the trauma that happens here during medical experiences. Overall, we just help to make it easier on families and patients while they’re here in the hospital.
Andrea McGinnis, BA, CCLS: Here at CHOP, we’re one of the largest Child Life Programs in the country with just over 75. You can pretty much find a Child Life Specialist anywhere that you would go, especially at our main campus from the emergency department to every inpatient unit. I personally cover outpatient clinics in the Buerger Center and we even have some that are covering our satellite locations.
Ashleigh Schopen, MA, CCLS: The type of schooling that you need to become a Child Life Specialist is a minimum of an undergraduate degree with a Child Life Internship. Some of us have master’s degrees as well.
Andrea McGinnis, BA, CCLS: As Child Life Specialists, we help to support both patients and their families for hospital procedures and we do this by helping a child to understand what’s happening to them and around them in a way that they should understand. So, if I’m meeting with a three-year-old, I’m gonna talk with language that a three-year-old should understand, a 10-year-old, a little bit higher level. We also help to develop coping plans. So, we figure out how can we make this as easy as possible for you at the hospital and walk away with a smile.
Sara Dellavolpe, BA, CCLS, CIMT: So, working in the NICU, procedural support looks a little bit different. I actually work with the infants during even the simplest procedure, like changing a diaper. I may be providing some facilitated tucking, like tucking their arms and legs into their body to help to support them, to help keep them calm during those things. For our children here at the hospital, they may come into the hospital not having any sort of medical experience previous to this visit, so if they know what’s gonna be happening, it makes that visit easier for them.
Ashleigh Schopen, MA, CCLS: Research studies show that anticipatory stress is far better than unexpected stress and so we know if we provide kids with developmentally appropriate education before an experience, not only are they going to be far more compliant with their medical care, but they’re also going to have a much greater level of trust among their caregivers while they’re here and that is absolutely critical for children.
Andrea McGinnis, BA, CCLS: As Child Life Specialists, we really look at our roll as what will help the entire family cope, so not just the patient and that, many times, includes the brothers and sisters as well. We’re gonna help to normalize the hospital experience for them, so that may be taking them down to the studio to play bingo, doing a project with just them and not the patient, because that gives them that special one on one time that they need.
Ashleigh Schopen, MA, CCLS: When we think about helping to prepare kids transitioning to home or to school, we approach it in very similar ways as we might prepping them for procedures and for the hospital experience.
Sara Dellavolpe, BA, CCLS, CIMT: Their family and friends may be asking questions about why they’re in the hospital, so we help to prepare them to answer those questions, so we may do some role play with them to get them thinking about questions that people in the community may ask them.
Andrea McGinnis, BA, CCLS: We really try to not just focus on what happens here at the hospital, but how are they gonna transition into life and still be normal kids with these new treatment or medicines they have to take after they leave the hospital. A lot of times the medical team will say that they feel like Child Life comes in with their magical wand, is able to wave it, and then the child is able to cope well with the procedure. And it’s not that we have a magical wand, but we really just use simple, honest information to explain to the child what to expect in a way they should understand and then help to give them tools to make the experience easier for them.
Ashleigh Schopen, MA, CCLS: There truly is a theoretical foundation for everything that we do.
Sara Dellavolpe, BA, CCLS, CIMT: You may see us playing. You may see us laughing and being silly, but we are a vital part of your child’s care team by helping them to cope with being here at the hospital, by teaching them why they’re here, and preparing them for anything that they’re gonna be going through, while we also are supporting you as the family.
Creative Arts Therapies
Jacqueline Macri, MA, MT-BC: The kids come here, and it is a stressful experience. When a kid comes in, their whole world is changed. Creative Arts are designed to alleviate stress, help them with relaxation, help them reconnect with who they are. So, Creative Arts Therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia includes music therapy, art therapy, and dance/movement therapy. There are 18 of us; 18 Creative Arts Therapists. We’re all master’s level clinicians and Creative Arts Therapists develop clinical goals and therapeutic interventions and collaborate with the interdisciplinary team to support the patient’s overall care plan.
So, music therapy uses all sorts of instruments, all sorts of musical interventions, depending on the patient. The patient and I will meet, and we’ll develop some goals together. Usually we think of music as something that needs to be performed and in Music Therapy, I tell them it is not about that at all. Like this is a judgement-free zone and this is the place where we’re trying to use music to serve your needs.
Music Therapy is spread out all around main campus. The NICU specifically you may be wondering how can you do Music Therapy with an infant, especially when they’re very young and they’re sensitive to stimuli. Music Therapists in the NICU are responding to their behavioral cues. The babies coo or their cry, the rate of their breath, and they’re adapting specific live music interventions to support their neurological development.
Art Therapists are mental health professionals trained in both art and therapy. So, in Art Therapy they’re using the creative process and the resulting artwork to help patients, and sometimes siblings, explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. They may be drawing their happy place or, or people that represent that to them. Sometimes they do gratitude gardens. There’s a lot of strength-based work in Art Therapy. Our purpose is for the patients to be able to look at it and help, help them understand themselves better or process something, get an emotion out; anything to do with being in the hospital and serving their needs while they’re here.
Here at CHOP we’re lucky enough to have one Dance/Movement Therapist on our Creative Arts Therapy Team. Dance/Movement Therapy interventions can be individual or group and they’re grounded in counseling and Dance/Movement Therapy theory. They invite children, adolescents, and families to use movement, metaphor, and imagery as an avenue for expression when words are not enough. Dance/Movement Therapy helps to encourage self-expression of feelings related to a patient’s illness or their treatment by incorporating words into movement. They sometimes even choreograph dances, so that may be something that they’re working on for weeks and weeks. It may be something that’s impromptu that happens in the moment, but it’s always involving movement that has personal meaning to the patient. It comes from them so that they can develop their own personal dance vocabulary.
A lot of the time when people think of Creative Arts in general, we think about the finished product. That can be an aspect of Creative Arts Therapy, but it is not the purpose. So, the purpose of these therapies is to use the Arts to meet your personal needs and your goals and that’s always the priority. So, we’re not thinking of it here as a Creative Arts class. This is a therapy that’s facilitated by master’s level clinicians.
For really young kids, expressing themselves through words is something that they’re still kind of learning, that may not be the thing that comes most naturally to them. So, using the Creative Arts is something that’s a little bit more natural for a kid. So, whether we’re using color, we’re using sound, we’re using our bodies, that’s a more immediate expression that allows them to really feel like themselves immediately in that moment.
Child Activity Coordinators
Shanaye Tucker: A Child Activity Coordinator works with a Child Life Specialist and we help normalize the activities that are in a hospital and implement hospital-wide events and UNIWY events and we just provide developmental play.
Alison Babbitt: We do a lot of playroom programming for patients in the hospital and we also do bedside sessions for those who are not able to come to playroom groups.
Shirelle Keys: Luckily here at CHOP we are able to have 13 Child Activity Coordinators on most inpatient units that help provide support and developmental play.
Alison Babbitt: We have lots of opportunities through play, whether we do group activities or do bedside sessions. A lot of different art activities or just playing games. Even just having conversations with them at bedside, kind of keeping them company.
Shirelle Keys: One of the ways that we really hone in on the patient experience here is by just providing an environment that is normalizing for our patients and to have similar opportunities as they would if they were not hospitalized. As it relates to the activities that I am able to do with our patients here, I enjoy making volcanoes. It’s one of those activities that I kind of like to pull out the hat for some of our longer-term patients to give them an opportunity to experience something fun that they haven’t already experienced.
Shanaye Tucker: My favorite activity is UNO. I am an UNO champion, so I’m always up for a challenge. I like to do it at the bedside or in a group activity.
Alison Babbitt: I really like to do like slime or ooblack. We make snow with patients. I also really do like doing spin art with patients. It’s the perfect activity for some of those patients who are maybe a little bit nervous about doing the activity if they think they might not be good at art, but they can kind of really just play with the colors and mix things together and it always comes out great, so it also makes them feel really good about themselves.
Adelaide: I love Child Life because they are so positive, and they like always make you like happy if you’re sad and they’ll do any activity that you want to do. Thank you so much for always being there and being such fun, cool people to hang around with.
Shanaye Tucker: I think the best part about my job is providing events for the patients and families. It’s just a great feeling to see the patients up and out and moving and just coming to the event and having a great time.
Alison Babbitt: The best part of my job is getting to know patients and really see them during their treatment throughout their time here at CHOP and just anytime that we are able to make them smile or laugh and make their day a little bit better.
Shirelle Keys: Child Activity Coordinators, we are not volunteers. We are paid employees that are afforded an opportunity to serve and – a very intricate part of our patient’s lives here. We have the ability to get them out of their rooms when they’re feeling down. We have the ability to collaborate with them for special events as it relates to bringing other family in, people from their school, and we would not be able to do that without the enormous support that we receive from our donors.
Yes, they are patients in the hospital, but at the end of the day we look at them as children first and so we, we really relish when those opportunities to just make their experience bright while here at the Children’s Hospital.
Related Centers and Programs: Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy