Child Life Program

Promoting a Positive Experience for Children and Families

The hospital can be a scary place for children and their families. The goal of Child Life is to minimize stress and anxiety as much as possible.  Child Life Specialists work with patients and families to promote a positive medical experience.

Child Life Department 423-778-5907

Register for a Pre-surgery Tour 423-778-2154

Donate from Our Amazon Wish List

Who Are Child Life Specialists?

  • Trained professionals with either a bachelor's or master's degree in a field of study related to child development.
  • Specialists who earn national certification through education and experience with the unique needs of hospitalized children and their families.
  • Part of the health care team, working closely with physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, ER technicians, and social workers.
  • Individuals who care for the psychosocial and emotional needs of the hospitalized child.

How Child Life Specialists Help

  • Normalize the environment
    By providing diverting activities like coloring pages, word searches, and board games, Child Life Specialists help make the hospital environment child friendly.
  • Prepare you for procedures
    Child Life Specialists can help you and your child know what to expect during a necessary procedure (IV, stitches, sedation, or surgery) by providing age appropriate teaching.
  • Distract during procedures
    Child Life Specialists can assist patients in coping during uncomfortable procedures through techniques like distraction, breathing exercises, guided imagery, and diversion.
  • Provide emotional support
    During traumatic events, Child Life Specialists can be a calming and reassuring presence for you and your child.
  • Explain what to expect
    If your child's visit to the ER results in admission to the inpatient unit or the intensive care unit, Child Life Specialists can help you understand the sequence of events and what to expect during your hospital stay.

Areas We Serve

  • Emergency Department
  • Surgery
  • Hematology/Oncology Clinic
  • Pediatric Intensive Care
  • Inpatient Units
  • Radiology
  • Outpatient Clinics
  • NICU

Child Life Practicum

The Children's Hospital Child Life Practicum gives qualified students the chance to gain practical knowledge about the child life profession through observation in the health care setting. Learn more

Our Staff

Maggie AkridgeMaggie Akridge, MS, CCLS - Children's Outpatient Clinics
Lauren GaddisLauren Gaddis, BS, CCLS - Children's Inpatient / PICU
Lois Simpson, BS, CCLSLois Simpson, BS, CCLS - Children's Outpatient Surgery
Nicole Tetzlaff, CCLSNicole Tetzlaff, CCLS
Children's Inpatient / PICU
Ashley Zani, BS, CCLSAshley Zani, BS, CCLS
Children's Outpatient Hem/Onc Clinic
Eileen Brennan, BS, CCLSSydney Smith, BS, CCLS
Children's Emergency Department


When to Call a Child Life Specialist

  • Child needs preparation for invasive procedure.
  • Child is having difficulty coping with a necessary procedure, i.e., crying, fighting or hiding.
  • Child exhibits oppositional behavior, refusing to cooperate without anger or hostility.
  • Child or siblings express specific fears to staff, needing follow up.
  • Child is perceived by staff as withdrawn.
  • Child is having difficulty taking meds.
  • Child is admitted having recently experienced traumatic loss or has a chronic illness (developmental delay)
  • Child is newly diagnosed with chronic illness.
  • Child is admitted for injuries resulting from a traumatic accident, i.e., MVA, fire, etc.
  • Child has injuries or diagnosis that has resulted from suspected child abuse.

Helpful Links & Resources

COVID-19 Hospitalization Education

PDF SymbolWhy Can't I Visit? - Explaining why Erlanger has a new rule to limit the amount of people that can come into the hospital

PDF SymbolTalking about COVID-19 - How to include children in difficult conversations to reduce stress and increase coping

PDF SymbolSupporting Children - Ways to support children when a loved one is in the hospital

PDF SymbolWhen Symptoms Worsen - Tips for communicating with children when a hospitalized loved one's symptoms do not improve

PDF SymbolSaying Goodbye from Afar - How to say goodbye to a loved in the hospital when visitation is not an option

Palliative Care

PDF SymbolWhat to Say & How to Say It - A grief and bereavement guide for parents

PDF SymbolQué decir & Cómo decirlo - Guía de Luto y Duelo para los Padres

Other Resources

Family Advisory Council at Erlanger (FACE)

Request a Group Visit to Children's Hospital - The hospital can be a scary place for children and providing activities and visitors makes the environment more child-friendly. Please read our Group Visit Guidelines and then submit an online request.

Preparing Your Child for a Procedure - Help your child prepare for tests and procedures commonly performed at Children's Hospital

Pill Swallowing - Tips from Children's Hospital at Erlanger Child Life (PDF)

Tools of the Trade - Learn about teaching tools we use to help your child cope with the hospital experience

Child Life Wish List - Help improve a child’s hospital stay by donating toys, games and more

Other Child Life Services - Learn about pet therapy, Cheer Cart, playrooms, bereavement support and family-centered care