Child Life Therapy: Making Clinical Footprints

Miss Sarah Scott1, Mrs Therese Baker1

1The Children’s Hospital At Westmead, Westmead, Australia, 2Agency for Clinical Innovation, St Leonards, Australia


Background: Child Life Therapy (CLT) plays an increasingly integral role in the paediatric burns team; supporting children’s coping, resilience and responses to hospitalisation. Paediatric burns patients and their families have a unique set of needs, requiring a specialised response from health care professionals to achieve optimal outcomes (Butler, 2003).

Reason/Purpose: Evidence based practice is essential for CLTs working in paediatric burns contexts, however little is documented to guide new and emerging CLTs. NSW has had CLT Burns Guidelines accessible through Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) since 2011. However, our practice and integration in the multi-disciplinary burns team has evolved indicating a need to update guidelines to better represent our specialised clinical practice and support new practitioners.

Methods: We collated concepts, tools and techniques applicable to CLT practice within a burns context. Draft versions were sent to three external CLTs with experience in Burns to seek feedback. The draft document was also shared with up to 15 colleagues in our local service, including CLTs and Burns Nurse Practitioners before further review by the ACI.

Results: The revised edition, ‘Child Life Therapy Burn Patient Management; Clinical Guide’ covers assessment tools, education/preparation strategies, procedural support techniques, therapeutic play needs and family-centred practice.

Conclusion: These guidelines are designed as a tool to inform and guide Child Life Professionals as they assess, intervene and evaluate their practice. They will also provide vital support to our colleagues working within rural and remote services as we distribute it as a tool through our state-wide burns service, ‘KidsBurns’.

Butler, D. P. 2003, ‘The 21st century burn care team’, Burns, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 375-379. doi:10.1016/j.burns.2013.01.004.

Agency for clinical innovation 2019, Child life therapy burn patient management; Clinical guide, <>


Sarah Scott has been working as a Child Life Therapist in the NSW Statewide Burns Service at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead for the last five and half years. Sarah’s work in the burns service centres on providing procedural support, procedural education and medical and therapeutic play to paediatric burns patients. Sarah has been involved in the development of new data tools to capture child life intervention and outcomes, education programs for rural clinicians focused on non-pharmacological techniques for management of patients’ pain and anxiety and has co-authored the latest edition of the Child Life Therapy Burns Clinical Guidelines. Sarah is passionate about the importance of trauma-informed care and emotional safety for paediatric burns patients and the value of an inter-disciplinary burns care team.

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