The potential role of Child Life Specialists in the South African healthcare sector

Jacqueline Kim Bezuidenhout, Joanne Potterton, Janine van der Linde


Child Life Specialists (CLS) are an integral component of paediatric health care services in many developed countries. They assist in bridging the communication between the healthcare team and the child’s parents and family. Their primary aim is to minimise the potential trauma the child and their caregivers may experience from being hospitalised. This field of psychosocial support for ill and hospitalised children has been growing over the past six decades with CLS services currently being offered at most North American paediatric hospitals.

By using developmentally appropriate techniques, and equipped with a foundation of medical knowledge, the CLS primarily uses play to relieve anxiety and to educate the child. Play is a meaningful activity that allows the healthy development of the child’s emotional, behavioural and social development. The three forms of play that may be utilised by the  CLS include therapeutic play, normative play and medical play. Non-pharmacological pain management is another vital area within which the CLS is involved.

The South African Department of Health recognises the importance of addressing the psychosocial welfare of the ill child and they have provided guidelines highlighting the psychosocial needs of children affected and infected with HIV. South Africa has many children accessing health services daily and is suitably positioned to initiate CLS in both public and private healthcare facilities. Improving the healthcare experience for the paediatric healthcare user population is crucial in ensuring their emotional and psychological well-being

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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