Nurse and child playing together in playroom

From annual shots to surgery, child life specialists support your and your child’s needs during illness and hospitalization.

At Northwestern Medicine, your child is the captain of a multidisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses and social workers who are committed to providing the best care. Child life specialists are like the cheerleaders, encouraging your child play-by-play. Each child life specialist has earned a bachelor's or master's degree with an emphasis on human growth and development, education, psychology or a related field.

Where Will I Encounter a Child Life Specialist?

Child life services are available for children in many clinical areas, including pediatrics, pediatric intensive care, pediatric outpatient clinics, pediatric emergency department, radiology and surgery. Support in other clinical areas is available upon referral or request.

Fostering a Positive Experience

Child life specialists are dedicated to fostering an optimal healthcare experience for all children and families by supporting their individual needs. A big part of this is play.

Children learn and process information through therapeutic play. In addition to having medically free zones within each location where child life specialist support is offered, we also coordinate various play opportunities that are specifically designed to provide comfort, joy and relaxation for children.

Child life specialist support includes:

  • Relieving potential fear and anxiety
  • Preparing your child for medical tests, surgery and procedures with explanations and medical play appropriate for their developmental stage
  • Introducing your child to various relaxation and alternate pain management techniques including imagery, music and guided breathing
  • Encouraging self-expression through music, books and art
  • Addressing the needs of siblings affected by a child's illness or hospitalization
  • Providing support, guidance and community referral information for your family
  • Using technology as a form of distraction, entertainment and education
  • Supporting children of critically ill adult patients by providing grief support and memory building

Additional Programs for Your Child

  • Child life volunteers. A team of friendly faces—our specially trained volunteers—help create a non-threatening and welcoming environment for children. This includes plenty of play and self-expression through art, games and music.
  • Pre-surgery tours. Know before you go. Personalized tours are provided by a child life specialist to help gear your child up for scheduled surgery. For details, please contact the child life office at 630.933.PLAY (7529).
  • Animal visits. Certified and trained animals, including dogs and even mini horses, may visit your child to relieve stress and provide distraction.
  • Magician visits. Hospital magicians work one-on-one with children, using magic to encourage participation, engage the imagination and help pediatric patients find their own sense of confidence and mastery as they learn to perform tricks for their physicians, family and friends.
  • Pediatric bead program. Earn a colorful bead for each milestone. Our unique bead program helps pediatric patients with cancer and other serious conditions celebrate medical victories.
  • Special events and visitors. From holiday parties to special events to celebrity visits, there’s always something happening to engage your child during their hospitalization or treatment.
  • Resident artists. Your child may have the chance to sit with a professional artist to do creative writing, music and visual arts projects both one-on-one and in a group.
  • Pediatric patient recognition. We believe that it’s important to recognize your child’s efforts in overcoming medical challenges. We celebrate these through awards, certificates and small donated gifts.
    • Donation to pediatrics: The child life team welcomes donations to our supply of prizes including toys, games and books. Please see the Child Life Wish List for details.

Child Life Internships

northwestern-medicine-aclp-child-life-internship-sealChild life internships are offered for fall and spring terms (no summer placement) at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, with additional experiential opportunities at both Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center. Our internship schedule and requirements follow the guidelines set forth by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). Please see our Internship Letter and Internship Placement Process for information. You may also visit ACLP for additional details at childlife.org.

Meet Your Child Life Specialists

Dora Castro-Ahillen, CCLS
Child Life Services Program Manager
630.933.4734
dora.castro-ahillen@nm.org

Brittney Mitsuka-Woodruff, CCLS
Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine
Pediatric Program
630.909.8037
brittney.mitsukawoodruff@nm.org

Katie Loewen, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU
630.933.4804
630.933.4803 Inpatient Child Life
katherine.loewen@nm.org

Mia DeRoin, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU
630.933.4806
630.933.4803 Inpatient Child Life
mia.deroin@nm.org

Bridget Hussey, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU
630.933.4735
630.933.4803 Inpatient Child Life
bridget.hussey@nm.org

Ginger Manzella, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Diagnostic Imaging, Surgery
630.933.4736
ginger.manzella@nm.org

Allie Jones, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Outpatient Pediatrics Clinics
630.933.4733
allison.jones@nm.org

Trina Krischon, CLS
Delnor Hospital
630.938.3838
trina.krischon@nm.org

Aileen Maxwell, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center
630.821.6441
aileen.maxwell@nm.org

Kristin Hickman, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
IHR/PRN
kristin.hickman@nm.org

Legal Information
1

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital is a collaborative program between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Lurie Children's and its affiliated physician groups. The physicians participating in this program are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital or Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.

2

The physicians who practice at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. These physicians have selected our facilities as the place where they want to treat and care for their private patients.