While March is recognized nationally as Child Life Month, Akron Children’s celebrates the important work our child life specialists do every day to make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families.
“We play an integral role on the health care team helping families navigate any part of the health care experience, whether that’s through procedural preparation and support, developmentally appropriate education on hospitalization or diagnosis, therapeutic play or emotional support,” said Renee Redenshek, a certified child life specialist who works in the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“Sometimes we’re meeting families on the worst day of their lives and riding alongside them as a support person who can help unscramble all the medical jargon or just being someone they feel comfortable coming to with questions,” she added.
Renee joined Akron Children’s 4 years ago because she was drawn to the hospital’s friendly, family-oriented culture.
“Working here really is more than a job because the work I do makes a difference,” she said. “Coming to work helps me to fill my cup by bringing joy and strength to others. It makes me happy to watch families learn and grow and overcome something they once thought was impossible.”
While working on the hematology/oncology floor means Renee’s job is emotionally challenging nearly every day, she said one of the fun parts of her job is making sure kids can still be kids while hospitalized.
“Play is the way that children learn best, so we use play and toys as mechanisms to teach kids about their experience in the hospital and what they are going through,” she said. “Through that kids learn to cope and cooperate better with the things that are happening to them while they are here.”
Because the department sees so many long-term and repeat patients, Renee gets to know many of her patients and their families quite well.
“The relationships we establish are very strong, so it can be difficult to not take your work home with you,” she said. “Our staff is like family, and we look out for each other. It’s comforting to know we have each other to lean on during tough times.”
In addition to the support of her colleagues, Renee also appreciates the investment Akron Children’s has made in her.
“Through its educational assistance program, Akron Children’s made an investment in me that is allowing me to pursue my master’s degree when it otherwise would not have been financially possible,” she said. “It’s nice to know I have an employer that cares about my future.”
To help her find a work/life balance and preserve her mental and physical health, Renee enjoys staying active and making time for friends, family and her hobbies like travel, camping, attending concerts and hiking.
“Like every department, we’ve had our fair share of staff shortages, but our passion to provide vital services to families has remained the same throughout those challenges,” she said. “I think it makes it easier to continue to come to work and do your job well when you know you’re surrounded by co-workers who care as much as you do.
“Our happiest moments on the floor are watching patients who have gone through so many ups and downs get to ring the bell at the completion of their treatment,” she added. “I love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Interested in learning more about a career as a child life specialist? Visit careers.akronchildrens.org.