Two child specialists at Levine Children's doing stuff

News, Child Health | one month ago

Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists play an essential role in the overall healing of our patients at Atrium Health's Levine Children's, but often times, not a lot of people know what they do. To give you the full inside look, we followed Andrea Westmoreland, CCLS III, one of our veterans at Levine Children’s Hospital who has been working on the 10th floor for 18 years, as she made her rounds during one of her shifts!

Hospital stays are never something to look forward to, but our team of dedicated child life specialists at Atrium Health's Levine Children's do their best to make the experience a little more fun and engaging. While each day may look different, there's one thing that remains constant — the passion for patient care. Let's take a look at one of these passionate child life specialists: Meet, Andrea Westmoreland, CCLS III 👋

Andrea is an 18-year-veteran at Levine Children’s Hospital. Earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Wofford College, she wanted to use her degree to work with hospitalized kids. After graduation, she was offered a child life internship in Columbia, SC and upon completion was hired as child life specialist here at LCH. 

“I often hear, ‘I don’t see how you do what you do.’ As child life specialists, sometimes our job includes legacy building and bereavement support, being present when a poor diagnosis is given and providing extra support to a patient who has experienced a traumatic event. Yes, sometimes the job is sad, but it is a true privilege to work with these amazing kids and help them cope with being in the hospital and provide education to them, so they can understand the diagnosis and procedures.”

“As a child life specialist, I want to make things simple such as referring to anesthesia as ‘sleepy medicine’ or help the patient understand what appendicitis is and why they are having so much pain. I use resources such as an iPad, a human body book and dolls (to name a few) to help teach the patient. Often having a visual is helpful for the rest of the family too. Providing distraction with bubbles or light up spinning wands during procedures often help patients cope and reduce their anxiety.”

Let's follow along as Andrea shares some behind the scenes photos of her day-to-day responsibilities, and how she brings comfort and fun into each patient’s room. Here we go!

PICTURE WITH FAMILY

Andrea is pictured here with her husband, Mike, and their two girls, ages 12 and 9. Being a mom adds an extra layer to her daily routine. Her alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. She gets up to get ready for work, pack lunches for everyone and enjoys a cup of coffee before heading out of the door by 5:40 a.m. 

PICTURE AT HER DESK

When she gets to work, she begins by reviewing charts and creates a list of high patient needs and work to prioritize her day. As a child life specialist, she says “you must be flexible, things don’t always go as planned.” 

PICTURE WITH LCH 10 TEAM

Andrea works on floor 10 at Levine Children’s Hospital with this awesome nursing team to care for neurosurgery, orthopedic/trauma, general surgery, and Cystic Fibrosis patients. 

PICTURE WITH AYMEN AT DESK

Being an 18-year-veteran in her career, Andrea also helps others learn. Here she is with Aymen, a child life assistant, reviewing patients and developing a care plan. Now it’s time to put plans into action. 

PICTURE WITH DOLL 

The day is filled with teachings, distractions for procedures, or just lending an ear to a parent who just needs someone to listen. Dolls are an excellent education tool. Here Andrea is doing some medical play and port teaching with Gracelyn, age 12.

PICTURE WITH ERICA 

Andrea also realizes the importance of working across teams to make sure they can develop a holistic care plan for each patient. Andrea talks with Erica, a vascular access team nurse, prior to performing a midline placement to make sure the patient is ready. 

PICTURE WITH BUBBLES

Pro tip: Bubble guns are a great distraction for a patient during a procedure.

PICTURES WITH TEAMMATES (Mackenzie and Kerry photos)

Teamwork makes dreamwork. Personalized care is important at LCH, so Andrea often collaborates with her other teammates to make each patient’s care special. Here are some of her teammates, Mackenzie and Kerry. Fun fact, Mackenzie was an intern years ago and returned to LCH for her career. 

PICTURE OF DOGS

Andrea’s workday ends at 3 p.m., when she shifts into mom mode. With two active girls, there is always something - sports practice, games, training and such. And let’s not forget dinner! Once all is done for the day, it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed. She is often in bed before the rest of her family (early to bed early to rise), but not before getting in some snuggle time with her two dogs, Roscoe and Luna.

“The one thing I have learned over the years is the importance of selfcare,” says Andrea. “I love being outside, reading a good book, exercising, and spending time with the most amazing family, friends and neighbors. My husband, Mike, and our two girls are my world and there are days I come home and hug them extra tight.  But I love what I do, and I love the patients and the families I have the privilege to work with.”

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Sounds like an eventful day! We loved having Andrea show us around and giving us a peek into what a child life specialist does. Thanks so much for letting us follow along, Andrea! And thank you to all of our child life specialists for everything you do to make sure our pediatric patients are cared for!