Working with diversity: the experiences of child life specialists




Matthiesen, Amarens

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Canada’s increasingly diverse population requires healthcare providers to become responsive to cultural differences within the provision of healthcare services, including Child Life Specialists (CLSs), who are committed to providing psychosocial and family- centered care to hospitalized children and their families. A fundamental process of family- centered care involves responding to the ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity of patients and their families. The field of child life generally remains under-researched and, in particular, studies to support the link between child life practice and culturally adapted care are lacking. To address this gap, this study explores the ways in which CLSs perceive and conceptualize the construct of diversity in their practice by utilizing cultural safety as a guiding framework. Through an exploratory research approach, semi-structured interviews with six CLSs working at a prominent children’s hospital in Alberta, Canada, were completed. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data indicated that CLSs conceptualized culture as a broad construct that is not limited to factors associated with ethnicity. Although CLSs also experienced various challenges in their practice as a result of cultural factors, their perceived level of comfort, confidence and desire to overcome such challenges were highly notable. This study also yielded insight into institutional- and practice-level resources and strategies that may improve the ability of CLSs to provide culturally-safe care.



child life specialist, diversity, culture, cultural safety, healthcare, pediatric, pediatric healthcare, child life