Child Life Program

Children who spend time in the hospital are faced with many challenges, ranging from an unfamiliar environment to invasive and sometimes painful procedures. They often feel as if they have very little control and few choices in what goes on around them.

The Child Life Department at Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital works alongside the health care team to help alleviate stress and anxiety while promoting positive coping skills for patients and families. Our child life specialists work with patients and families in the pediatric unit, pediatric intensive care unit, neonatal intensive care unit, hematology/oncology clinic, radiology, surgery, and the Emergency Department.

We offer the only child life program in western Virginia. Our goals are to:

  • Increase each patient’s understanding of hospital experiences
  • Recognize and support strengths within each family
  • Provide an emotionally supportive environment for patients and families
  • Promote normal growth and development
  • Advocate for patient–and family–centered care


Our specialists focus on four areas to ensure children receive the care they need:


To keep our patients on track, we offer developmentally appropriate play opportunities and other daily life activities for normalization. This helps maintain growth and development while enhancing patients’ self-esteem.


Having fun helps children keep their minds busy through pleasant distraction. Our playroom has lots of toys and activities to take away the fear and anxiety that comes with a hospital stay. We encourage pediatric patients to get to know other children in the hospital because it allows them and their families to bond with one another.

Patient Education

Preparing children for surgery or other medical procedures in a safe atmosphere offers them a sense of control and understanding of frightening events.

Family Education

Before and after surgery or other procedures, the entire family receives information, support and individualized instruction. There are also special opportunities for family activities and togetherness because we know that comforting hugs and smiles make children feel safe.

Emotional Support

When traumatic events are occurring, patients and families may need support to help them cope with their emotions. We offer bereavement services and developmentally–appropriate ways on how to deal with the circumstances at hand.

Sibling Support

The child life program also addresses the needs of siblings. Patients’ brothers and sisters may also have worries about illness and hospitalization. Therefore, it's important to help them cope with feelings of missing their parents and any changes in their daily routines.

For more information about our child life program, call (540) 981-8099.

Wish List

If you would like to support our Child Life Program by donating items, please refer to our general wish list and our NICU wish list for needed items regularly used in support of our efforts.