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Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida

Child Life Specialist Helps Children Cope in the Emergency Department

Child Life Specialist Helps Children Cope in the Emergency Department A trip to the Emergency Department can cause anxiety for patients of all ages, but can be particularly scary for children. At Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, a team of child life specialists helps young patients and their families understand medical procedures and manage stress.

“I work with all ages of pediatric patients; however I work most often with toddlers and school-aged children,” explains Jennifer Neill, the child life specialist in the pediatric ED. “In my role, I try to normalize the environment as much as possible through play. I also provide education and support during procedures and diagnoses—for the patient and the family.”

In a department where the patient population constantly changes, Jennifer relies on nurses, physicians and staff to let her know which patients could benefit from child life services. “I regularly check in with nurses and physicians to keep up-to-date on our patients,” she says. “We also have Epic electronic health records, which tells staff who is here, what they are here for, what tests have been ordered, etc. I refer to Epic continuously throughout the day.”

Due to the nature of the ED, Jennifer’s role often includes education on the medical procedures and support because of the urgent nature of patient needs.

“Patients with chronic illnesses who are more familiar with the hospital have different needs,” she says. “They may have difficulty coping with the length of stay, the illness itself or missing friends and school. Each child life specialist may have different roles, but we are all working toward a common goal—to help patients and families cope with hospitalization. I am lucky to work with such a great team.”

Jennifer says the best part of her job is seeing a child who is smiling and happy—whether being admitted or discharged. “I have the best job,” she says. “I love seeing children who are feeling better, have not been traumatized by their experience and view the hospital in a positive way versus the negative feelings a lot of people associate with the hospital.”


“Jennifer Neill, child life specialist in the ED, uses dolls, toys and books to help children understand medical procedures.”

Golisano Children's HospitalTo make a gift to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida or to learn about giving opportunities, contact the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation at 239-343-6950 or visit