Creating a positive patient experience is central to our work at UPMC Children’s. Our physicians, nurses, and health care professionals seek out opportunities to make each encounter with a patient and their family comforting, reassuring, and uplifting.

UPMC Children’s commitment to patient experience goes beyond these individual interactions. A variety of formal programs from Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy to Supportive Care focus on the developmental, social, and emotional needs of our patients and their loved ones.

Because these services are not reimbursed by insurance, support from donors like you enables us to offer them to families at no charge. Your generosity also empowers us to develop new programs, making each day brighter for the children we serve.

Child Life Department

With current funding, the hospital can support only a limited number of Child Life specialists, about half as many as comparable hospitals. Because Child Life is critical to the hospital’s mission but not reimbursed by insurance, building sustainable funding is a priority.

Our Child Life specialists understand the perspectives of kids and ease their fears while in the hospital. They work one-on-one with patients across all clinics, getting to know each child so that they can tailor fun and therapeutic activities to meet individual needs.

Sometimes, that means sitting with a child to explain a diagnosis or procedure in child-friendly terms. Other times, it means employing advanced techniques to calm and distract patients, thereby decreasing the need for sedation. It can also mean creating a comforting environment by tracking down a favorite video game or staging an unforgettable high school dance..

Get to know the different ways Child Life makes an impact below.

Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy

Our extensive Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy program, staffed by certified Child Life specialists, music therapists, and art therapists, enhances the good and diminishes the bad for patients and their families. With your support, we can customize care based on each child's needs and abilities.

Dream BigThe Dream Big Studio

Fully funded by donors, the Dream Big Studio is a state-of-the-art independent TV and radio broadcasting studio located within the hospital where patients can create their own television shows or radio programs and develop their broadcast skills. The live shows are created, produced, and hosted by UPMC Children’s patients with the support of Child Life staff and are shown on televisions throughout the hospital.

Watch the Dream Big Studio grand opening celebration

Arts TherapyNora Grace Kaufman Center for Creative Arts Therapy

There are some wounds that cannot be healed by medicine alone. For those, we turn to the healing power of art and music. Board-certified art and music therapists help patients, as well as their families, to address their physical, mental, and emotional needs though music, art, and other forms of creative expression.

Learn more about the Nora Grace Kaufman Center for Creative Therapy

Matt's MakerMatt’s Maker Space

Matt’s Maker Space is designed to spark kids’ creativity through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). Kids can tinker to their hearts’ delight — building tiny robots, using a 3D printer, and so much more in this imaginative escape from the clinical environment.

Find out how Matt’s Maker Space helps kids learn and heal

Supportive Care Program

There is nothing in the world that can prepare a family for the news that their child has a life-threatening disease. At UPMC Children’s, the Supportive Care program, one of the first in the region, is here to offer guidance, comfort, and emotional support along this difficult journey.

When a child’s prognosis does not include recovery, the team supports the family in personalized ways to preserve and honor their child’s life. Family tree paintings, handprint models, and heartbeat recordings are priceless mementos that families can hold dear.

To help meet the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the children and families being served, the team also offers an array of programs like monthly support groups and a summer camp for bereaved siblings called Camp Wakchazi.

Social Work

Social WorkThe Social Work team provides individual, family, and group counseling; discharge planning; and assistance with patients’ special needs. They also serve as patient and family advocates, helping parents find answers to questions and make appropriate decisions regarding their child’s care. Through donor-funded family support funds, they further provide financial assistance to meet families’ basic needs.

Parents of a sick child face so many worries; the financial burden of care should never be one of them. Your investment can ensure it never is for families in need.

Special Features for Comfort, Care, and Support

The Lemieux Sibling Center

When a child is hospitalized, tremendous stress and anxiety often fall on their family members — including their siblings. This unique playroom gives siblings of hospitalized kids their own supervised place to play, learn, ask questions about their brother or sister’s diagnosis, and receive answers that they can understand in a safe, therapeutic environment. Brought to life by the Mario Lemieux Foundation, your support helps sustain the Lemieux Sibling Center's important role in families’ lives.

Healing GardenThe Howard Hanna Healing Garden

Even here in a hospital, our kids and their families can bask in some much-needed sunshine thanks to the Howard Hanna Healing Garden. This outdoor rooftop garden on the hospital’s sixth floor offers patients and families fresh air, peace and quiet, and a beautiful view of the city of Pittsburgh.

The Eat’n Park Atrium

The Eat’n Park Atrium is like the hospital’s town square where patients and families meet on their way to the many available amenities, including a chapel, classroom, Austin’s playrooms, the Dream Big Studio, and more. The expansive space is accentuated by floor-to-ceiling windows where trick-or-treating, movie nights, themed craft-making parties, and other special events are held.

Stories of Hope and Healing

  • Rosie

    Rosie

    You can’t help but smile around Tony and Sarah and their 8-year-old daughter, Rosie.

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  • Anna

    Anna

    In 2019, after weeks of unexplained headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, Jennifer took her 11-year-old daughter, Anna, to the emergency department in Erie, Pa.

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  • D'Kaiden

    D'Kaiden

    Doctors told Samantha to prepare for the worst — that her son D’Kaiden likely wouldn’t survive after birth.

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  • Juju

    Juju

    “Pittsburgh is Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and we need to be 'helpers' when called,” says Katie about sharing her daughter’s story.

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  • Landon

    Landon

    Get to know another one of our featured fighters for the Heroes in Healing program. Meet Landon.

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  • Mackenzie

    Mackenzie

    Many children with developmental and behavioral health needs experience a difficult journey toward wellness due to services that are fragmented or inaccessible.

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  • Rilyn

    Rilyn

    “We are truly thankful for all of the nurses, physicians, surgeons, therapists, and specialists that have been involved in Rilyn’s care,” says Rilyn’s mom, Jamie. “

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  • Sophia

    Sophia

    Last New Year’s Eve, while many of us were cheerfully ringing in 2021 with friends and family, 5-year-old Sophia and her parents were grappling with devastating news.

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  • Tristan

    Tristan

    If you’re a member of our monthly giving program, you’ve probably seen his smiling face before. Now, you can learn more about the brave kid behind the mask.

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  • photo of a girl with no hair

    Delanee

    In August 2020, I was moving into my freshmen dorm at the University of Pittsburgh, ready to take on college. Little did I know I’d be moving out just a semester later.

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  • girl smiling and holding a puppy

    Harper

    It was just after Christmas and Harper was as white as the snow on the ground.  A fever that wouldn’t break led us to take her to the pediatrician.

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  • boy sits on a hospital bed smiling

    Joey

    Joey was busy living his life as a normal 7-year-old boy, playing flag football at his local YMCA, attending first grade, and wrestling with his little brother Finnegan and his dog Sophie.

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  • black and white photo of girl with hair wrap smiling

    Lowin

    Our D-Day, diagnosis day, we were delivered devastating news, “Your daughter has a very large mass in her brain.”

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