Cedars-Sinai Blog

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Joanne Ordono, Child Life Specialist

Meet Joanne Ordono, child life specialist at Cedars-Sinai for 17 years. In honor of Child Life Month, we sat down with Joanne to learn more about what she does and what inspires her.

What does a child life specialist do?

Joanne Ordono: We are like teachers, but we teach pediatric patients about the hospital.

We help kids understand the whos, whats, and whys about the hospital and their treatment journey. We help them cope with everything from pain management to anxiety—things that come with being hospitalized.

As a hematology/oncology child life specialist, I support patients with blood disorders or cancer.

We help them understand and learn about their disease, answering questions like, "How did I get this?" and "Why did I get this?" We use a lot of play activity to connect with the kids, because play is how kids learn best.

We also offer training to medical, nursing, and other staff caring for children and teens.

What's the best thing about your work?

JO: Connecting with the kids. Even when you see the same patient often, there's something different every time.

What inspired you to pursue this career?

JO: I wanted to work in the medical field, but I didn't like science or math.

I've always wanted to work with kids. A college counselor told me about child life specialists and I was happy to know there was an actual name and profession for what I wanted to do. I switched majors and I finished the classes quickly because it just clicked for me.

Where did you grow up?

JO: I was born in Manila, Philippines, and lived in Saudi Arabia for several years. We moved to the US when I was about 12.

How do you spend your free time?

JO: Spending time with my husband and children and making memories with them is what I love to do. We try to do adventurous and educational activities as often as we can.

We're also involved with our church, so we like to do things with our church family. My husband and I sing in our worship band every week.

What's your dream vacation?

JO: I really want to go to Bora Bora, Santorini, and Iceland.

How do you cope with the stress and emotions of this job?

JO: The key for me is acknowledging that those things exist. If I need to cry, I cry. If I need to laugh, I laugh. You just shouldn't' keep it in.

Sometimes it's hard to not think about my patients outside of work, especially if they aren't doing well. But it reminds me to be grateful and to make the most of the moments I have with my family.

What are you rocking out to during your commute?

JO: Bruno Mars and Luke Bryan!

Joanne Ordono with patient Áine Randle taking a selfie during a 2017 holiday party.