Collaborative Efforts between Recreational Therapy and Child Life

Transdisciplinary care and collaboration among team members is necessary and essential to maximize patient outcomes.  Collaboration is the most effective when professionals understand the unique role of each discipline. This is potentially more difficult when disciplines overlap in some services provided, or when an individual on the team is dually-certified.  In pediatric care settings, this is often the case for Recreational Therapy (RT) and Child Life (CL). Victoria Cooper, CTRS, MS & Heather Porter, CTRS, PhD at Temple University conducted a review of the literature to highlight the benefits of transdisciplinary care and current evidence-based research in acute pediatric RT and CL services. This review also summarized similarities and differences between the two fields based on profession-based documents. Findings indicate 28 unique areas of RT practice. These include: 18 grey areas (items found in both RT and CL profession-based documents with shades of differences); 8 items found in one profession that are highly likely to occur in both professions; and 31 areas of similarity. Items of similarity do not raise concern, as the items appear to be common among many healthcare professions, such as developing a therapeutic relationship and conducting an assessment. Differences stem from underlying principles of each profession. A manuscript containing the details of this study is currently being written for publication to disseminate the findings and provide suggestions for strengthening RT evidence-based research in pediatric acute care, along with suggested opportunities for collaborative research. In the meantime, ATRA sections will be developing setting and population-based competencies, which will also help in further defining our unique areas of practice.

How do you collaborate with child life specialists & other related disciplines? How do you define your role as a Recreational Therapist if you work in a pediatric setting with Child Life Specialists? Do you also hold a child life certification? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Blog Post by Victoria Cooper, MSRT, CTRS, Adjunct Instructor at Temple University, PA

One thought on “Collaborative Efforts between Recreational Therapy and Child Life

  1. Thanks for the great post, Victoria, and thank you for the contribution to research! This is a popular discussion among RTs working with children & youth.

    I hold a CTRS and am also a CCLS (Certified Child Life Specialist), however in my current position I’m really utilizing my CTRS the most. At my organization, Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey, we offer Child Life and Recreational Therapy mostly as separate services. In inpatient rehabilitation, the RTs work primarily with a rehabilitation focus to help children return to their play, leisure, and social activities, or provide leisure education, as well as providing diversional & normalizing play opportunities. Our child life specialists work with the children & families to promote coping with hospitalization/trauma/injury/disability, work to lessen the impact of hospitalization on a child’s development, promote peer support, and provide other child life services such as treatment support during therapy/procedures and pain management.

    Although RT and Child Life scopes of practice do overlap in some ways, our team defines our focus and separates our services to maximize our time with patients. Although as an RT I’ve been prepared to teach pain management strategies to children, my time may be better spent working on leisure education and community integration, while the Child Life Specialist with more training in pain management/distraction/procedure support may be better utilized to help that child in this specific area.The key is communication and carry over, and to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to help the client in the best way possible.

    We should be working with an interdisciplinary focus, where all team members can work to support & carry over all goals. Each discipline focuses on a certain aspect of treatment, which is their biggest area of concern and where they feel they can make the biggest impact. This is often the case with RT and OT!

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