Next up in our Child Life Month series we’re introducing you to a child life specialist who has been a part of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) team for nearly two decades.
Meet Heather Kinney, CCLS, CPST
During March, we celebrate team members like Heather, a senior child life specialist at CHoR who spends her time helping children and their families cope with the different health challenges and experiences they’re facing. Her passion for children and inspiring dedication is the reason many of her patients have decided they want to be child life specialists when they grow up.
A day in the life of a certified child life specialist can take many forms. Some days are full of fun, playing with kids, allowing them to continue being kids within the medical environment, and helping them use play to normalize the hospital or clinic experience. Other times, the focus is more medical, helping children to understand, cope with and participate in their treatments, medications, procedures and surgeries. Child life specialists provide psychosocial care for children as they face these challenges, collaborating with the child’s family and other members of the care team to reduce fear and stress and make the child feel empowered and included in the process.
”I went to Heather for everything,” said one patient’s mother. “By everything – I mean everything. I asked her how to tell my daughter she had cancer, how to tell my other children, what to expect, and many many other questions. Heather always had a helpful answer and she was always by our side. At one point I thought we were the only family that Heather and Kelsey were helping – they were that dedicated to us.”
Q & A with Heather
Q: How long have you worked at CHoR?
This was my first child life job – I’ve been here since August of 1998!
Q: Where do you work at CHoR?
I cover the pediatric intensive care unit.
Q: Why did you decide to become a child life specialist?
When I was 15 I worked as a counselor (with my youth group) at a camp in St. Louis Missouri for kids who have cancer. I met a child life specialist at the camp and the rest is history!
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s an honor to be able to help parents be honest with their children in a manner that they can understand and cope while facing stressful events. Those are the moments when I feel like I have really made a difference.
Important stuff kids want to know…
Q: What’s your favorite children’s book?
As a child I loved the Boxcar Children and the Baby-Sitters Club series. Now, when I’m reading to my son, the favorite books are anything about cars, trucks or trains! Our current favorite is Steam Train Dream Train.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
Q: What’s your favorite food?
Has Heather or another child life specialist at CHoR made a difference in your life? Share your story below.