Child Life in the Adult ICU: Including the Youngest Members of the Family

  • Jaime E. Bruce
  • Kathleen McCue


The profession of child life is one of the newest providers of direct clinical services in adult intensive care units. Through their philosophy and training, child life specialists make available a wide range of interventions to children and families who are facing the very serious or life-ending illness or injury of an adult patient. These certified experts also provide specific tools to assist other professionals in meeting the needs of the expanded family, including any infants, children, and adolescents who are impacted by the hospitalization of an adult in the challenging environment of an intensive care unit.


Child life End of life Psychosocial issues Intensive care Children of adult patients Child development Family systems 


  1. 1.
    American Academy of Pediatrics. Child life services. Pediatrics. 2014;133(5). Retrieved from
  2. 2.
    Brewer S, Gleditsch SL, Syblik D, Tiejens ME, Vacik HW. Pediatric anxiety: child life intervention in day surgery. J Pediatr Nurs. 2006;21(1):13–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Child life Council. Official Documents of the Child Life Council. Arlington: Child Life Council; 2011. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cross J, Bruce J. Child life services in an adult setting: a quality improvement initiative and implementation effort in a university hospital. Child Life Focus. 2015;33(3):13–7.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fein JA, Zempsky WT, Cravero JP. Relief of pain and anxiety in pediatric patients in emergency medical systems. Pediatrics. 2012;130(5):e1391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gursky B, Kestler LP, Lewis M. Psychosocial intervention on procedure-related distress in children being treated for laceration repair. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2010;31(3):217–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Harpham W. When a parent has cancer: a guide to caring for your children. New York: HarperCollins Publishers; 1997.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Madhok M, Milner D, Teele M, Finkelstein M. Child life services and patient satisfaction in emergency department. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2007;23(10):764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    McCue. How to help children through a parent’s serious illness. New York: St. Martin’s Press; 1994, rev. 2011.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Phillips F, Prezio EA. Wonders & Worries: evaluation of a child centered psychosocial intervention for families who have a parent/primary caregiver with cancer. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;26:1006. Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tilford JM, Simpson PM, Green JW, Lensing S, Fiser DH. Volume-outcome relationships in pediatric intensive care units. Pediatrics. 2000;106:289–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sutter C, Reid T. How do we talk to the children? Child life consultation to support the children of seriously ill adult inpatients. J Palliat Med. 2012;15(12):1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Wolfer J, Gaynard L, Goldberger J, Laidley LN, Thompson R. An experimental evaluation of a model child life program. Child Health Care. 1988;16(4):244–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaime E. Bruce
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kathleen McCue
    • 3
  1. 1.Middle Tennessee State University, College of Behavioral and Health SciencesMurfreesboroUSA
  2. 2.Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Department of Child Life and Volunteer ServicesNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Children’s Program, The Gathering PlaceClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations