"The fellowship at LLUCH has given me the opportunity to enhance my child life skills and become a well-rounded Child Life Specialist. This has been a great blessing for me and my career."
In 2016, Spirit of Children, a program that donates toys, costumes, and gaming systems for patients, funded a Child Life Fellowship position at Loma Linda University Children's Health. This allowed LLUCH to hire a recent Loma Linda University graduate, providing them with a one-year paid experience as an entry-level Child Life Specialist.
The first LLUCH Child Life Fellow, Rachel Kinsinger, was instrumental in creating and facilitating a child life position within the outpatient radiology department, where she then innovated an approach to procedural preparation that resulted in reduced risk, cost, and wait time for pediatric patients completing their MRIs. Child Life Fellows learn skills as Child Life Specialists in all areas of the children's hospital, such as educating for a new diagnosis, preparing children for surgery or procedures, and facilitating new child life positions in areas of the hospital such as radiology, dialysis, and palliative care.
"Last year we were able to hire two Child Life Fellows and collaborate with the Behavioral Medicine Center's Mastering Each New Direction (MEND) program to integrate behavioral health in innovative ways," says Dinah Evans, Director of Child Life and Language Services at LLUCH. "One of our current fellows, Melissa Fatal, is creating and facilitating services for inpatient pediatric patients undergoing diagnostic tests such as MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays."
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The Child Life Fellowship created by LLUCH and the MEND program is a novel and innovative step forward in the direction of behavioral health integration. The position serves to bridge the knowledge and training between behavioral health and the LLUHC Child Life program.
Ashley Campillo, a recent graduate of the School of Behavioral Health Child Life Specialist MS program, was selected to be the first MEND Child Life Fellow. Ashley has been working onsite with the MEND team, learning behavioral health skills and resources which she then brings to the LLUCH Child Life team. At the same time, Ashley is also bringing her child life skills and resources back to the MEND department—skills which directly impact the care that pediatric patients receive. This exchange of knowledge and skills is helping to further adapt the MEND program to younger patients through the application of art and play therapy activities.
"We're very excited about this new pilot program," says Dr. Brian Distelberg, MEND program director, professor, and BMC research director. "We see this as a new horizon in the future of behavioral health integration. It has been a great experience so far, and I believe the BMC and Children's Health have already seen amazing benefits from this collaboration."
"Having the opportunity to do my fellowship at both LLUCH and MEND has been an experience I am beyond grateful for. At MEND I am learning a whole new set of skills for working with children with chronic illnesses and their families, as well as getting the opportunity to apply my child life skills in an alternative setting. MEND uses a family systems approach to make long-term changes in families with children who have chronic illnesses, and it has been amazing to be a part of that. The fact that I also get to work in a hospital setting and train on all of the units has allowed me to further cultivate my child life skills and learn how to adapt them to individual units."