Child Life Services:
  • Pre-Procedural Preparation and Support
  • Therapeutic Medical Play
  • Pre-Admission Orientation Program
  • Procedure Preparation
  • Surgery Preparation and Operating Room Escorts
  • Diagnosis Education and Support
  • Education and Support for Siblings
Therapeutic Programs:
  • Age Appropriate Playroom/Bedside Activities
  • Pet Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Developmental Stimulation
  • Special Entertainment
  • Laptop Lending Program
  • Grief/Bereavement Education and Support
  • Patient Connect Sibling Support Program

Good health is about a lot more than medicine and surgery. It's a balance of so many things, not the least of which is a positive outlook, a feeling of security, and continued engagement in life. This is especially true for kids facing surgery or an extended hospital stay for the first, fifth, or twentieth time.

From the start, over 100 years ago, it has been the goal of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland to treat the whole child, and not just the illness or disease.

Our Child Life Program offers a staff of child development specialists who focus on acclimating children to the hospital setting and to ensuring that they are able to understand and adapt to the hospital experience—with the least amount of stress. Child Life specialists work to reduce children's fears and anxieties associated with the health care experience using therapeutic and supportive play activities.

Children's is a pioneer in developing ways to address the social, emotional and developmental needs of our patients. We were one of the first hospitals to embrace a Child Life model bringing together a staff of Child Life Specialists who are trained professionals with bachelor's or master's degrees in the area of child life, child development, human development, or recreation therapy.

Reducing a child's anxiety around medical procedures and surgery lowers the need for anesthesia and increases success in recovery. Before a surgical procedure, our Child Life specialist provides preparation, familiarization, and support for children undergoing tests, surgeries, and/or other medical procedures.

Child Life Therapists

Child Life Therapists (also known as Child Life Specialists) are an incredible and hardworking team of professionals dedicated to helping children cope with and find opportunities to enjoy their time at Children's Hospital Oakland.

As is the case with all our medical personnel, Child Life Therapists have advanced degrees and licenses related to their field and are a strong part of the team of healthcare workers we rely on every day. Their primary job function is to reduce the negative emotional and developmental effects of hospitalization and to help kids recapture the joy in simply being young.

When you come to Children's Hospital Oakland, you will be introduced to the Child Life Program and offered more information on the in-house School Program, Art Therapy Program, and Music Therapy Program. Our Child Life staff includes:

  • Child Life Therapists, who promote growth through therapeutic play, education, and self-expression
  • Certified teachers managing our Hospital School Program
  • Certified Art Therapists, whose role it is to support kids in our rehabilitation unit
  • An artist-in-residence who helps engage kids in arts and activities
  • A pre-operative specialist who helps children understand medical procedures in an interactive and non-threatening way

These professionals have a big impact on our patients day-to-day experience. We make sure that educational and fun activities continue during your child's stay with us. Your child's health and happiness matter to us. We make them both a priority.

Procedure & Pre-operative Preparation

To help allay the fears and concerns of the child and family, a Child Life specialist meets with you and your child before surgery to explain the process that your child will go through. The age-appropriate demonstration may include puppets, dolls, and toys to demonstrate and talk through how the procedure will happen. Often allowing your child to see and handle the face masks and other equipment used during surgery, seeing pictures of the operating room and gurney, and helping them understanding the time line of their procedure can help reduce anxiety. The Child Life specialist encourages your child to ask any questions they may have about what is happening to them.

Art Therapy & Music Therapy

The benefits of art and music therapy on the healing process are well documented and gaining in popularity among top children's hospitals all over the world. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland has long been a proponent of using the creative process for therapy, rehabilitation, and pain management.

Art and music therapy programs are integral to the clinical services we provide. For us, it's not enough to be a leading pediatric research and development organization—we also want your kids to feel comforted, cared for, and excited about what tomorrow will bring.

Music Therapy Program

Children's Hospital Oakland has one of the most comprehensive music therapy programs in existence.

Music therapy is defined as the use of music to promote healing and enhance the quality of life for patients. Current research shows that music therapy can be used to assist in pain management, ease depression, promote movement, calm patients, and ease muscle tension. Music therapy goes beyond physical benefits to incorporate the emotional, cognitive, developmental, social, and spiritual needs of a patient, as well–something that is vital for children striving to overcome huge obstacles in their health.

No two patients react to music therapy the same way, which is why each session is customized to your child's needs and response. The level of involvement can be as simple as listening to music or spontaneous playing with intriguing instruments or as complex as become a songwriter. Therapy is offered in a supportive manner, and in way that promotes self-expression and exploration.

The benefits of music therapy are many. Younger children who may not be able to articulate their concerns and fears, these issues often become evident in their musical play or improvised song lyrics. Music therapists may also work with specialists in physical/occupational therapy to apply the movement involved in playing an instrument playing to facilitate rehabilitation goals.

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Art Therapy Program

Art serves as a way to connect the mind, emotions, and body in a positive and beneficial way. For children who have undergone a trauma or who are facing a medical hurdle, it can mean the difference between simply getting through the day and taking an active and interested approach to recovery.

Each child who is hospitalized at Children's Hospital Oakland is provided with the opportunity to work with an Art Therapist and explore the Artist-in-Residence program. With one-on-one sessions and various media options like ceramics, prints, and murals, children are given the chance to drive their own creative and healing processes.

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School Program

Because we know that a good education is an essential part every child's self-esteem and well-being, schooling shouldn't stop just because your child is in the hospital. It can be to keep up with a rigorous school schedule while hospitalized. so our Hospital School Program is integrated into the recovery plan of every school-aged child hospitalized here.

The Children's Hospital Oakland Hospital School is a fully accredited program that works in conjunction with the Oakland Unified School District. All of our teachers hold graduate degrees and current teaching credentials—but they are also so much more. Our educators are an active part of each healthcare team so that every patient's unique situation is taken into account and under doctor's orders. We also work with your child's school to ensure that students are on track to continue their regular classes and standardized testing schedule when they are able.

Both in-house classroom options and bedside teaching assistance are available through the Hospital School. In addition to a media center and computer lab, there are video-conference options and GED and SAT tutoring. This combination of technology tools, a challenging enrichment curriculum, guest visits from area educational groups, and personalized teacher-student interactions is what makes our program such a success.

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