Universitat de Barcelona

Emotional Care for the Hospitalized Child: The Child Life Model


The Master's Degree in Child Life, a care model centred on the child, adolescent and family, is designed to train professionals in the area of clinical and psychosocial pediatric care, so that they can implement this model.

The master's degree is organized by the Teaching Campus Sant Joan de Déu and the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, and the qualification is issued by the University of Barcelona. The teaching campus has over twenty years of experience in the organization of its own and UB postgraduate and master's degree courses.
Child Life programmes have become standard in most of the main pediatric hospitals in the USA, and even in some pediatric units in general hospitals, to face situations in which diseases and treatments produce suffering and anxiety. Child Life specialists focus on children's strengths and feeling of well-being, and on promoting their optimum development. They aim to keep to a minimum any adverse effects of children's experiences in environments that are potentially stressful (particularly hospitalisation, but also other cases).

This master's degree focuses on both professional specialisation and research. The focus on professional specialisation is justified by the need for healthcare and psychosocial professionals in pediatrics, particularly in a hospital environment, who are specialists in a care model that is centred on children, adolescents and the family. At the same time, the aim of the master's degree is to train professionals who have the skills to carry out research in the context of disease and pediatric care.

Currently, the Spanish state does not have a programme of university training at bachelor's degree, postgraduate or master's level in this field. In contrast, in the USA, there is a long tradition of teaching in this field at a range of universities and higher education institutions. Clearly, over time, European hospitals, and specifically Spanish hospitals, will need to regulate academic qualifications in Child Life.

Learning objectives

The main learning outcomes of the master's degree are as follows:

  • Obtain appropriate training as professionals involved in the process of caring for pediatric patients, to become competent in the area of family-centred care and in the Child Life model, and to become capable of designing and managing care plans that promote the participation of patients and their families.
  • Obtain suitable training as professionals who can design, develop and assess research projects on the experience of pediatric disease and the outcome of applying the Child Life model.
  • Obtain suitable training as professionals who can lead and coordinate interdisciplinary teams that apply the model of family-centred care and Child Life.
  • Analyse and critically interpret healthcare practice, the changing needs of society and the available resources, to become capable of proposing theoretical and methodological changes in healthcare practice.
  • Learn the theoretical and methodological principles and instruments of work required to implement care plans based on the Child Life model.
  • Act in an ethical and legal way that complies with the ethical code, both in clinical practice during training and in professional development.

Basic Information

Number of ECTS credits awarded:
Language(s) of instruction:
 Catalan and Spanish
Number of places available:
Faculty or school:
  Sant Joan de Déu Teaching Campus - Private Foundation (affiliated centre)
Master's degree course homepage:
  Master's degree course homepage

Recommended applicant profile

The master's degree is designed for university graduates:

  • Professionals in the healthcare environment, in the fields of nursing, psychology, physiotherapy, medicine, speech therapy, etc., who wish to implement the Child Life care model in their daily practice.

  • Professionals from other areas (education, social work, social education, pedagogy, etc.) who wish to apply or adapt the Child Life model.

Although this is a broad applicant profile, we consider that many of these graduates (or holders of similar qualifications) could be very interested in studying and working in the pediatric healthcare environment. Consequently, we consider that, if they take the relevant bridging courses, they can access this course without difficulty, and attain the proposed learning objectives and competences.

Depending on the availability of places, the Master's Degree Committee may also consider applications from candidates who hold other bachelor's or pre-EHEA degrees and can provide evidence of over two years of professional work in this field.

Students must have a good command of Spanish or Catalan.

Admission requirements

In accordance with Article 16 of Royal Decree 1393/29 October 2007, students must hold one of the following qualifications to access university master's degree courses:
  • An official Spanish degree.
  • A degree issued by a higher education institution within the European Higher Education Area framework that authorizes the holder to access university master's degree courses in the country of issue.
  • A qualification from outside the framework of the European Higher Education Area. In this case, the qualification should be recognized as equivalent to an official Spanish degree. If it is not recognized, the University of Barcelona shall verify that it corresponds to a level of education that is equivalent to official Spanish degrees and that it authorizes the holder to access university master's degree courses in the country of issue. Admission shall not, in any case, imply that prior qualifications have been recognized as equivalent to a Spanish master's degree and does not confer recognition for any purposes other than that of admission to the master's degree course.

Specific requirements

  • Qualifications that grant direct access to the master's degree, with no requirement to take bridging courses:
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Nursing.
    - Holders of bachelor's and pre-EHEA degrees in Psychology.
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Physiotherapy.
    - Graduates in Medicine and Surgery.

  • Related qualifications, with a requirement to take bridging courses:
    - Holders of bachelor's and pre-EHEA degrees in Pedagogy.
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Early Childhood and Primary Education.
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Speech Therapy.
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Social Work.
    - Holders of diplomas and graduates in Social Education.

  • Other qualifications, if professional experience can be demonstrated in the area of pediatric care, which also require to take bridging courses:
    - Holders of bachelor's degrees and diplomas in other disciplines with postgraduate training in music therapy, art-therapy, animal-assisted therapy, humour-assisted therapy (clowns in the hospital environment).

The Master's Degree Committee may also consider applications from candidates with bachelor's degree or pre-EHEA degree qualifications in other fields, who can demonstrate that they have over two years' of professional experience in the area of pediatric care.

Bridging courses

Some applicants' qualifications do not include specific training on fundamental aspects of healthcare. Consequently, it is vital to ensure that bridging courses cover the contents required to ensure that every student makes the best possible use of their time.

One of the bridging courses that is offered is a 6-credit subject that is taken intensively prior to the start of the master's degree, during September. It is designed exclusively for students of the master's degree.

Subject: Childhood and diseases (6 credits)

Learning outcomes
- Identify the different types of childhood diseases.
- Analyse specific needs in the range of childhood diseases.
- Learn the basic medical and healthcare terminology.

Types of pediatric diseases:
- Diseases requiring pediatric surgery. Process of hospitalisation.
- Chronic pediatric diseases.
- Acute, critical pediatric diseases.
- General pediatric diseases: the most common techniques and procedures during hospitalisation.
- Medical and healthcare terminology.

Skills and competences

Basic competences

  • Knowledge forming the basis of original thinking in the development and/or application of ideas, typically in a research context.

  • Capacity to apply the acquired knowledge to problem-solving in new or relatively unknown environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts related to the field of studies.

  • Capacity to integrate knowledge and tackle the complexity of formulating judgements based on incomplete or limited information, giving due consideration to the social and ethical responsibilities involved in applying knowledge and making judgements.

  • Capacity to communicate knowledge and conclusions and the grounds on which they have been reached to specialist and non-specialist audiences in a clear and unambiguous manner.

  • Capacity for ongoing self-directed and independent learning.

General competences

  • Capacity to integrate knowledge of the current context of hospitalisation of children and the development of Child Life as a care model focused on children, adolescents and their families.

  • Capacity to recognise and assess situations of stress that children, adolescents and their families may experience during the process of hospitalisation, or the performance of medical and health tests and techniques, in the different stages of evolution of a disease.

  • Capacity to analyse traditional care models, so that new therapeutic interventions can be designed to improve professional practice.

  • Capacity to identify and apply research methods and procedures in the health sciences that are appropriate to the Child Life care model.

  • Capacity to apply techniques to manage, lead and evaluate interdisciplinary or multiprofessional care teams for children, adolescents and families.

  • Capacity to lead, design and assess research projects in the area of pediatric care, both within and outside the hospital.

  • Ability to develop theoretical and methodological ideas and proposals aimed at preventing and addressing situations of vulnerability in children, adolescents and their families, from a perspective focused on respect for human rights, the values of a democratic culture, cultural diversity and gender.

  • Capacity to design care programmes based on the Child Life model for children's hospitals or in pediatric units in general hospitals.

  • Capacity to develop care models based on creativity and innovation, aimed at improving the quality of healthcare.

  • Capacity to establish educational and therapeutic communication with children, adolescents and their families.

Specific competences

  • Capacity to innovate and make proposals to improve the area of hospitalisation of children.

  • Capacity to assess, plan, execute and evaluate treatment plans that include a specific Child Life approach, basically in relation to psychosocial care.

  • Capacity to assess quality standards in the area of hospitalisation of children

  • Capacity to identify situations and contexts that are stressful for children or adolescents, whether or not they are hospitalised, and for their families.

  • Capacity to respond to situations of stress, pain, emotional impact and situations of terminal illness in children and adolescents, taking into account the participation of their families.

  • Capacity to identify educational strategies in the process of hospitalisation of children.

  • Capacity to identify and plan specific therapies that are suitable for each situation.

  • Capacity to lead, design, develop and assess research projects to facilitate evidence-based practice in the field of Child Life or pediatric psychosocial care.

  • Capacity to promote interdisciplinary work with other members of the team, professionals and volunteers.

  • Capacity to identify social risk factors in childhood during the process of hospitalisation or disease.

Pre-enrolment calendar

6 May - 30 June.
Notification of resolutions: 1 - 9 July.

  • Pre-enrolment fee: A pre-enrolment fee of 30,21 euros is charged. Students who apply to more than one master's degree must pay the fee for each pre-enrolment request. Pre-enrolment requests cannot be processed until this fee has been paid.Fees will only be refunded if the master's degree in question is suspended.
  • Reserved places: A maximum of 5% of the new places of the master's degree are reserved for students who meet the general and specific access requirements and accredit the recognition of a degree of disability equal to or greater than 33%.


Required documentation

  • Curriculum vitae.
  • Letter of intent explaining the motivation to undertake the master's degree.
  • Pre-enrolment application.
  • Academic record.
  • Copy of the qualification giving access to the master's degree, or the equivalent for international students, duly translated and legalized.


Please visit the Spanish Ministry of Education website for more information:

Selection criteria

Candidates to the master's degree are selected and admitted on the basis of these merits, in order:

  1. Educational background. Priority is given to the qualifications listed as granting access to the course, and consideration is given to other studies (master's and postgraduate degrees and other studies related to the subject area (40%).
  2. Professional experience in the field of Pediatrics or Care for Children. (40%). In this case, three specific aspects are evaluated, listed in order of importance:
    1. Number of years' of experience in professional activities related to childhood.
    2. Relevance of the positions held in institutions or childhood-related programmes.
    3. Relevance of professional duties performed in these institutions and programmes.
  3. Academic record. The grade-point average obtained in the degree or equivalent studies used for the purpose of application will be taken into account (10%).
  4. Motivation. Factors leading to the choice of the master's degree are given consideration (10%).

In case the number of candidates is over 40, admission will follow the order of enrolment, provided that the previous criteria are met.


A special committee is created to consider the candidates applications. The committee is made up of members of the master's degree Coordinating Committee. 

Phase 1. The committee considers the aforementioned criteria to decide on the admission of students who have pre-enrolled. 

Phase 2. Each candidate attends an individual meeting before the enrolment period opens, to assess that they meet the aforementioned criteria and their motivation to study the master's degree.  

In case the number of candidates is over 40, admission will follow the order of enrolment, provided that the previous criteria are met.   

Notification of successful and unsuccessful applications will be sent out during the first week of July. Candidates may appeal against or request a review of the committee's decision during the second half of July.


Starting 16 July.