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Monday, August 21, 2017
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Get to know Child Life Specialist: Cristen Rigatti

Thanks to The NASCAR Foundation’s partnership with NYU Langone Health, Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU Langone was able to expand its Child Life services in its surgical and radiology/imaging areas by hiring Cristen Rigatti as a new Child Life Specialist. This expanded coverage will include longer day and, for the first time, weekend hours, allowing more patients to receive education prior to their surgeries and MRIs, play and activities during wait times, and support during recovery.

We sat down with Cristen to get to know her better.

Why did you decide to become a Child Life Specialist?

I have always had a passion for working with children and find it very natural to interact with all children. I have been volunteering at a camp for children with life-threatening diseases since 2009, and since then have completed my BS in Psychology and MS in Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities. I had a friend from camp pursuing a career as a child life specialist at the time, who I obtained information from, as well as the child life website. I started to volunteer at Robert Wood Johnson and immediately knew that I had found my dream career. 

How do Child Life services impact health outcomes of children in the hospital?

Child life services are very important in a hospital setting. Hospitalization can be traumatic for not only children, but for adults too. Preparation and guidance for what to expect during your hospital stay, as well as emotional support and validation of feelings can make a tremendous positive change. Research has proven that child life services have a beneficial impact on the outcome of hospitalization for children and their families and help to decrease anxiety not only for the patient and family, but for the staff as well.

Describe a typical day as a Child Life Specialist?

A typical day for a child life specialist can vary greatly, depending on what unit you are on (inpatient, surgical, MRI, etc.).  On the surgical units, my day consists of preparing pediatric patients and their families for their surgical experience.  Preparation involves building a quick rapport with the patient and family and educating them about what to expect for the day. Play is a very important part of my job and although to some it may seem irrelevant or silly, play is necessary for a child. Play helps to normalize the hospital environment for a child, while allowing them to express themselves and interact with others.

What did you think of your visit to Pocono Raceway?

The visit to Pocono Raceway was amazing.  I recently lost my brother  to SUDEP (sudden unexpected death from epilepsy), and as  a diesel mechanic he was, like me, a huge fan of NASCAR. My father used to take us to NASCAR races all the time. Experiences like the one at Pocono Raceway impact patients and their families in such a positive way. These experiences provide the opportunity for the patients and their families to interact with other patients and families, to have a day out of the hospital environment, and to bring the focus back on the family as a unit (as opposed to always on the patient). Read More about our visit with NYU Langone at Pocono Raceway.

The NASCAR Foundation is proud to have Cristen continue our mission of enhancing the delivery of medical care to children at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU Langone.


The NASCAR Foundation is dedicated to helping children live happier, healthier lives. 
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