Welcome to the first in a series of Digging Deep Partner Profiles. With March being Child Life Month, we begin by featuring some of our wonderful Child Life Specialists using Digging Deep on a regular basis and improving the lives of 1000’s of young patients. For those unfamiliar with the practice of Child Life in hospital settings, please refer to this excellent explanation from the Child Life Council website: What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events.

Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Because they understand that a child’s wellbeing depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

Celebrating the work of Rita Goshert, MA, CCLS, Clinical Operations Manager, Child Life Department, at Miller Children’s Hospital, Long Beach, California.

 Rita GoshertThe first Medical Director of Miller Children’s Hospital hired a Director of Child Life before the hospital was even finished being built, very forward thinking for 1970. Since then, the Child Life Department has grown and flourished. Rita Goshert was hired in 1987 and worked with a staff as small as three to the present staff of 35 in Child Life.  The department’s services now cover all areas of the hospital, and even include providing support to children of adult patients in Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.  Programs include Music Therapy, Hospital School, Family Resource Center, NICU Family Support, Artful Healing Art Program and an Injury Prevention Program.

Rita was led into a career in Child Life following 120 hours of volunteer work she completed at Miller Children’s Hospital in the Child Life Department for a class she was taking in Child Development at California State University Long Beach (CSULB).  She received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Child Development and Family Studies at CSULB. Twenty-eight years later, she is still proud to be contributing to the profession she has helped shape.

Rita and her department have positively affected the lives of all the children and families they served over the years.  “My job has been so rewarding,” states Rita, “Knowing that I am making a positive difference for children and families at one of the most traumatizing times in their lives is one of the aspects of my work I find so rewarding.”

Rita’s department has contributed significantly to the field of Child Life.  First, she is extremely proud of helping create the department’s highly specialized Child Life Clinical Internship, which is continually being refined to meet best practice standards. Also of note is the fact that Miller Children’s Hospital was one of the first Child Life programs to have its own live, closed circuit TV show.

Rita’s job has its share of challenges as well.  Working within the constraints of a very tight budget, as well as all the meetings associated with managing a department of 35 employees, are two of the most challenging aspects of her work.

Through her many years of experience, Rita certainly has wisdom to share.  “Always follow the child’s lead even if it isn’t what you had planned,” she advises.  Rita strongly believes that a child will tell you what he or she needs, whether it is through play, drawing, or verbal communication.  She feels listening to, and watching for, the clues young people give is so important when supporting the emotional needs of sick children.  Rita’s words of wisdom: “Always put the patient and family first and make sure that flexibility is your middle name.”

Congratulations and many thanks to Rita Goshert and her entire staff for the important work you are doing for children and families!

Click for more information on the Child Life Department at Miller Children’s Hospital.

Sheri Brisson
Sheri Sobrato Brisson is a brain tumor survivor who discovered the importance of self-reflection during her recovery. From her personal illness experience and a dozen years supporting families and children with serious illness, her life’s philanthropic mission is to empower families and children facing serious illness. She has started and facilitated support groups for children with illness and their families for over twenty years with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as Board Member for many children’s health nonprofit organizations including American Cancer Society San Jose, UCSF/Mt. Zion Auxiliary, Creighton Health Institute, and Okizu Foundation. Brisson received her master’s degree in counseling from Santa Clara University and her undergraduate degree in human biology from Stanford University.
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