The Role of Child Life in Pediatric Pain Management: A Survey of Child Life Specialists

Published:January 21, 2008DOI:


      Pain management is often described as a component of child life specialists’ work. No research has described the specific pain management strategies used by child life specialists. The objectives of this study were to determine child life specialists’ use of nonpharmacological strategies, to describe the perceived efficacy of these strategies, to determine how much training child life specialists had in these various strategies, and to determine what demographic characteristics predict the use of evidence-based techniques. Six hundred seven child life specialists from hospitals and health centers across North America responded to an online survey (response rate: 85.4%). Results indicate that child life specialists use a variety of techniques with varying degrees of perceived efficacy. The most commonly endorsed techniques were providing information/preparation, comforting/reassurance, and positive reinforcement. Respondents reported receiving substantial training in some techniques (eg, providing information/preparation, medical play) and high interest in receiving additional training in all techniques. Certification status, the proportion of patients for whom participants reported providing pain management services, and participants’ perceived levels of knowledge and skill emerged as significant predictors of the use of evidence-based strategies. The results of this survey suggest that child life specialists are actively involved in pediatric pain management.


      American and Canadian child life specialists were surveyed to assess their involvement in managing the pain of pediatric patients. Findings of the survey indicate that child life specialists are involved in the management of pediatric pain and are receptive to additional training in evidence-based techniques.

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