Protecting the Emotional Development of the Ill Child: The Essence of the Child Life Profession, edited by Evelyn K. Oremland and Jerome D. Oremland, Madison, CT, Psychosocial Press, 2000, 266 pp, $45.00.
This posthumous work, begun by Dr. Evelyn Oremland and completed by her husband, provides further evidence of the important role that Child Life professionals can play in the care of hospitalized children and their families. Dr. Oremland began her career as a medical social worker before founding the first college-based training program in Child Life in 1977. She remained a leader in her field, directing and fostering research in Child Life until her death.
Dr. Oremland's passion for enhancing the well-being and development of hospitalized children is apparent throughout this book. The book begins and ends with a discussion of the theory and background of Child Life. The text primarily consists of journal excerpts from her students, each telling the story of a hospitalized child or adolescent and the role the Child Life infern played in the child's care. These anecdotes are, by turns, educational, amusing, and touching. The experiences of these interns caring for children, from infants to adolescents, with acute and chronic diseases are frequently uplifting as the interns assist these children in coping with the stresses of hospitalization. The chapter entitled "Child life and child death" is particularly instructive and compelling. Three interns describe their relationships with terminally ill children and their families, as well as their own reactions to the child's impending death. Although sad to read, these chapters demonstrate the positive influence the Child Life interns had on the children's lives and deaths.
The book also briefly discusses the justification for Child Life. Although there is some discussion of cost-effectiveness (reduced need for sedation, staff, restraints, and shorter hospitalizations) and consumer satisfaction, it is made clear that this is not Child Life's primary focus. Child Life does not exist for financial or marketing goals, but for "the alleviation of needless sadness, anguish, pain, apprehension, and fear, and in the protection of the emotional development of children." In chapter after chapter, this book reaffirms the importance of that goal. The chosen examples beautifully illustrate the beneficial results of a Child Life provider's relationships with children and families.
Overall, this is an enjoyable, well-written book. Pediatricians, psychologists, and other pediatric health care providers will find it both educational and emotionally moving, as it reaffirms the importance of Child Life for ill children and families.
Paul S. Matz, M.D.
Division of Ambulatory Pediatrics; Rhode Island Hospital; Brown Medical School; Providence, Rhode Island