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

  • D'Kaiden


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

    Full Story
  • Mackenzie


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

    Full Story
  • 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. “

    Full Story
  • Erin and Nelvia

    Erin’s Complex Care

    Just like an average little girl, Erin enjoys being outside and interacting with other children. But unlike most other children, Erin has spastic quad cerebral palsy

    Full Story
  • Jackson smiling

    Jackson’s Journey

    While Danielle was still pregnant, she learned that her unborn baby boy was already fighting an uphill battle.

    Full Story
  • Rosie's Future

    Rosie's Future

    In July 2022, Amanda and Adam were just settling into life as a family of five when their newborn daughter, Rosie, started twitching.

    Full Story
  • Colin’s Second Chance

    Colin’s Second Chance

    Our then 15-year-old son, Colin, had a yearly wellness check with his pediatrician. During that visit, his pediatrician noted that Colin had lost over 10 pounds in four months.

    Full Story
  • Maelynn’s Big Smile

    Maelynn’s Big Smile

    Maelynn is a spunky 7-year-old with dark blonde hair and a big smile. She is a straight-A student, loves music and gym class, and hopes to be a teacher one day.

    Full Story
  • Taylor's Road Home

    Taylor's Road Home

    Kim says living with her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, is like living in a musical. “That child will break into song while doing the dishes,” Kim shares with a laugh.

    Full Story
  • 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.

    Full Story
  • 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.

    Full Story
  • photo of a girl with no hair


    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.

    Full Story