The Role of Child Life Therapy in Perioperative Services at Gold Coast University Hospital

Mrs Phillipa Cordner1,2,3,4, Mrs Mary Scannell1,2,3,4

1Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, Australia, 2Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, 3Children’s Hospital Foundation, 4Greater Charitable Foundation,

Background: The Occupational Therapist- Child Life Therapy (CLT) provides a unique skill set in the perioperative environment, applying knowledge of procedures within a medical context with extensive understanding of childhood development, and the importance of children’s occupational performance and engagement within the hospital setting. The role of the CLT at Gold Coast University Hospital was established following an application to the Gold Coast Health Improvers Program in 2015 by an Anaesthetist, Halia O’Shea, recognising the opportunity to improve the experience of children and their families within the perioperative service.

Method: Funding was initially provided for a 0.3FTE Occupational Therapist, providing Child Life Therapy in Perioperative Services 3 mornings per week. The CLT role has supported the education of staff regarding childhood development and the benefits of  CLT for the child, family, staff and the health service. CLT has provided advocacy for the development of a paediatric specific wait area in perioperative services, appropriately decorated and resourced for the paediatric population and their families, and the development of a social story and video “My Little Operation.”

Results: The introduction of the CLT role has anecdotally resulted in a reduction in surgery cancellations due to patient/ family anxiety, as well as positive child/ family and staff feedback about the patient experience in perioperative services, particularly for children requiring multiple admissions and with complex medical and development needs.

Discussion/ Outcomes: Based on positive patient, family and staff feedback and outcomes, Grant funding has been obtained for a 3 year fulltime CLT position, via the Greater Charitable Foundation. With this additional funding, outpatient services have been commenced with increased scope for therapeutic intervention within the perioperative journey. Planning has commenced to undertake research to evaluate the role and its impact. There are plans for future collaboration with the Medical Imaging to reduce the need for general anaesthetic for completion of MRI scans in paediatric patients across Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service.


Phillipa Cordner graduated from James Cook University with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Hons I) in 2010. She currently works in paediatrics at the Gold Coast University Hospital in the Child Life Therapy program and a multidisciplinary feeding clinic.

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