Meet the Child Life Specialists at McLane Children's Hospital
This Child Life Month, we're recognizing Tina Ulanowski, Child Life Manager, and the team at McLane Children’s Hospital in Temple, TX.
Tina has been a child life specialist for 35 years and has been working at McLane Children’s Hospital for the last year and a half.
“I truly love all aspects of my job” says Tina. “I love teaching young child life specialists, working with my staff and making a difference in a patient or family’s experience.”
Tina found her calling in high school when a classmate who was going through chemotherapy told Tina about her positive experience with the child life team at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and how the child life team had really made a difference in her recovery and stay at the hospital.
“I was captivated,” Tina explains. “I knew child life was exactly what I wanted to do.” Tina then started researching universities that offered degrees in child life — at the time there were only six in the country. “I was accepted into a program at The University of Akron and have been devoted to child life ever since,” Tina noted.
“One of the things I love about my job is the ability to connect and make a difference in the lives of patients and their families. I learn something from them in every interaction. The ability to listen to a patient’s needs and feelings and be able to tailor an intervention that allows the patient to master a difficult procedure is extremely rewarding. I love looking at a patient’s proud face after he or she accomplished something that was perceived as scary, and hopefully the new coping skill will transfer to other life experiences as well.”
“The COVID pandemic affected our programming. All of our play areas including wait spaces and hospital playrooms were closed and activities had to be delivered to each child’s bedside,” says Tina. “We also had to utilize a lot of virtual visits for siblings. But things are starting to ease up, and volunteers have recently been allowed back in - which has helped tremendously, and the playrooms are in the process of being re-opened.”
The core team of nine child life specialists at McLane Children’s Hospital sees around 1,000 patients a month. All are all trained professionals with expertise in helping reduce the stress and anxiety associated with hospitalization and illness in children. They work together with doctors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare team members to meet the emotional, developmental, and cultural needs of children and their families.