First European university master's degree on child care model, Child Life


The academic year 2016-17 launches the university Master’s degree in emotional care to hospitalized children according to the Child Life model which will be presented on June 14 to the students. These studies are a Master’s degree of the University of Barcelona which are jointly organized and coordinated by the Sant Joan de Déu campus and Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.

The main aim of this master is to train professionals from the clinical and pediatric psychological areas to be able to develop the Child Life care model, a model focusing on children, teenagers and family.

New professional profile

In Spain there are currently two people with a contract to work as Child Life professionals, both of them in Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.

The master offers 40 study places and it is aimed at professionals of the fields of nursery, medicine, psychology and education. It will have cross-disciplinary lecturers. Therefore there will be nursery lecturers from the Sant Joan de Déu campus, apart from experts of the University of Barcelona coming from different areas such as medicine, psychology, education or fine arts. There will be pediatric and psychology doctors from Sant Joan de Déu Hospital apart from the Child Life professional, Núria Serrallonga, who will be in charge of coordinating the master’s internships.

Apart from the Child Life model there will be other disciplines which share the professional intervention with a therapeutic aim and use of music, clowns or animals as a helping resource, and which are currently applied in the called “kid’s friendly hospitals” such as Sant Joan de Déu Hospital.

This master is also useful to create a training and research professional source in this new discipline which has a scientific side that goes further than the ludic activities with the patient and the family. 

What is the Child life model?

This model, born in the United States in 1982, makes reference to the fact of maintaining “child life” in hospitalized children. This is the first master’s degree in Europe which trains on this model which is totally implemented in the USA around more than 180 pediatric hospitals which have an average number of 60 child life professionals on their teams. The master of the University of Barcelona has the support from Child Life Council and Unicef.

At Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, the Child Life program is offered in order to make children and teenagers’ experience in the hospital as much positive as possible. It is a complementary task to that of the doctors and nurses, working with the symbolic games and adapted explanations to the ages and state of each patient, they benefit the expression of feelings, emotions and the understanding of what is going on and therefore, if the situation is understood, patients face it in a better way.

It is aimed at the children who enter the hospital to be operated on, or need (after surgical operations) to be some days at the intensive care unit, or because they are afraid because all that has been said is too unknown for them. With a cloth toy everything is explained, with games, they tell them how the venous line will be put, what anesthesia does, what they will feel, how the operation will go, which things will happen, etc.