Starlight knows that every child life team member plays an essential role in delivering moments of happiness to their patients and families. With March being Child Life Month, we are celebrating all month long by spotlighting some of the incredible child life staff at our hospital partners across the country.
And with that, we want to introduce you to Lou Ann, who is currently a Child Life Assistant (CLA) at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. As a CLA, Lou Ann is responsible for planning activities that engage patients that help reduce stress, connect with others, normalize the hospital environment, and so much more!
We sat down with Lou Ann to find out a little bit more about why she entered the field, what parts of her job bring her joy and, of course, if she has a favorite Starlight program!
Why did you pursue a career in child life?
I first encountered child life during a unique volunteer role I had in a partnership with Tacoma Public Schools and MultiCare Health Systems. I had been working as a Transition Job Coach with young adults who were involved in an onsite work program on the Mary Bridge & Tacoma General Hospital campus. I was in that role for about 8 years. One of the child life specialists approached me about applying for a new role outside of the school district; they were hiring for a Child Life Assistant at Mary Bridge Children’s and thought I’d be a good fit. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and had 23 years prior experience in the school district in all grade levels, engaging with kids of different abilities in a culturally diverse setting. Eager to embark on a new challenge, now 7 years later, I’ve found myself in a role I couldn’t be more passionate about, challenge accepted!
What’s your favorite part of working in Child Life?
I enjoy people and I get to play at work! I love being creative with fun activities for our monthly inpatient activity calendar. My work revolves around so many cool & interesting people including patients & families, community members, and staff so it’s really hard to choose a favorite part. I get to partner with our volunteers, donors, special visitors, Foundation staff, partnerships like Starlight Programs, and so many other awesome folks who help normalize the hospital setting for our patients and families. I have no idea how to pick a favorite!!
What part of your job brings you the most happiness?
Our team shares “joy” moments at the beginning of huddles and other meetings. We always find a reason to smile and laugh. Just being a part of such an incredible caring team who provide quality care to our patients brings me happiness!!
What does happiness mean to you?
Happiness is knowing that the work I do behind the scenes is impactful in a positive way. I know my teammates can spend more time at the bedside providing direct patient care because of my support and engagement and that’s pretty awesome.
What’s your favorite Starlight program?
Haha! I’m not sure I have a favorite, I love them all, I think our patients get the most joy out of the Starlight Nintendo Gaming stations though! The newest version of Mario Kart with the Nintendo Switch has become a fast fave!
How do Starlight programs bring happiness to your patients?
Starlight programs bring happiness to our patients by providing FUN distractions and some normalization in the hospital setting. Patients love to wear the colorful gowns and enjoy playing on the gaming systems. Of course, Disney toys are always a hit and fun to giveaway. We’ve engaged a few patients in building a Lego Hospital, also pretty cool. Our incredible team of child life specialists enjoy offering the Starlight VR headset for both distraction and entertainment too.