Meet Child Life Specialist, Elizabeth Fairall
When Elizabeth Fairall, child life specialist, started her career about seven years ago, she was fulfilling a dream that began in college. As a pre-med student at West Virginia University, Fairall shadowed a child life specialist and from that point on she was convinced it was the career she was destined for.
“I am here to teach and help the children, but most of the time, they are the ones teaching me about life,” says Fairall.
Fairall is one of 15 certified child life specialists at Johns Hopkins who help children cope with illness through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. These members of the health care team have docked hundreds of hours of clinical experience in internships, fellowships, and practices. On the inpatient pediatric oncology ward, Fairall’s task is to help the patients understand complex medical procedures in a language they’ll understand. Sometimes this means that Fairall spends her time “playing” with her patients using dolls, pictures or other ways to describe treatment and tests.
From newborns to young adults, Fairall typically works with up to 18 patients a day. She teaches each child about cancer, how it affects their body and demonstrates upcoming procedures and treatments.
In addition to teaching the technical components of cancer to patients Fairall also provides emotional support and understanding for these families by finding ways to help make their disease and treatment a little less frightening. She plays a vital role in educating not only patients but caregivers as to what will happen in procedures, how to handle the needs of their children under stress and general understanding of cancer diagnosis.
When she’s not busy educating pediatric cancer patients and families, Fairall works to coordinate Camp Sunrise, a weeklong day and overnight camp in Hartford County, MD for cancer patients.
The payoff in working with pediatric patients “helps keep balance in her own life,” says Fairall. “Kids teach us how to live life to its fullest and never take things for granted, most of all they teach us patience.”