Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist

Child Health, News | 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 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, 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 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, certified child life specialist 👋

Westmoreland is an 18-year-veteran at Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH). 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, South Carolina, 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,’” says Westmoreland. “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 can be 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 helps patients cope and reduce their anxiety.”

Let's follow along as Westmoreland 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!

Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist, and family

Westmoreland is pictured here with her husband, Mike Westmoreland, 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, packs lunches for everyone and enjoys a cup of coffee before heading out of the door by 5:40 a.m.

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.”

Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist and team on LCH floor 10 

Westmoreland 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.

 Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist with patient, Gracelyn

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, Westmoreland is doing some medical play and port teaching with patient Gracelyn, age 12.

Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist talking to teammate 

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

Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist

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

Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist and teammates 

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

Dogs of Andrea Westmoreland, certified child life specialist

Westmoreland’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 Westmoreland. “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.”

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