girl in wheelchair playing with developing toy

MIDB Welcomes New Certified Child Life Specialist

Cala Hefferan, MA, recently joined MIDB as a certified child life specialist (CCLS).

In this role, Hefferan will assess pediatric patients (or participants) and families' potential stress factors, including past experiences, developmental and psychosocial needs, and contributing family dynamics, to design and facilitate interventions to reduce stress and promote coping. Child life specialists are integral members of the interdisciplinary team. Additionally, Hefferan will be the third CCLS in the MHealth Fairview Child Life Team to be a primary facility dog handler.  She will collaborate with the interdisciplinary team before, during, and after possibly stressful events, leading to pediatric patients' higher success with challenging tasks and further development of coping skills. 

She will also:

  • share developmentally appropriate information using prepared materials
  • lead therapeutic play sessions to build rapport and normalize the environment
  • facilitate medical play sessions
  • prompt rehearsal of coping skills
  • advocate for child life presence during procedures (lab draws, MRIs, EEG, etc.)

She is currently in the very beginning stage of growing child life services at MIDB. She is beginning by meeting staff from Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Autism Clinic, and the Rare Disease Program, along with observing research studies. She will then meet with staff to further introduce child life services and assess and evaluate where, when, and how child life services can be intentionally integrated at MIDB.

Cala Hefferan
Cala Hefferan, MA, CCLS

"I have been interested in pursuing the child life specialist position at MIDB since I first heard about MIDB," said Hefferan. "My passion for evidence-based best practices and supporting research were leading contributors. In addition, as a nature enthusiast, the therapeutic value of the indoor and outdoor qualities of MIDB is intriguing and inspiring, especially when I consider therapeutic interventions available with our future facility dog. As I learn more about the patient populations and research conducted at MIDB, my excitement grows! Everyone at MIDB is very welcoming, and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the clinic and research staff."

Hefferan has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Foundations of Education: Elementary and Middle School/ emphasis in 5-8 Science from the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development, and a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Child and Adolescent Development and Child Life from the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development.

Hefferan has worked in the child life profession for 10 years. She started her career as a child life associate, supporting patient and sibling developmental needs in the hospital. Pursuing certification as a child life specialist, she continued her education,  completed a practicum and internship, and passed her certification exam in 2020.

She recently partnered with one of her graduate school professors and a colleague to co-author two chapters in the book, "Play in Hospitals: Real Life Perspectives," printing April 2023.

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