Child Life News

Diane Hart To Receive Distinguished Service Award

by Allison Sohanlal, MSc, CCLS McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada | Jan 05, 2017
Growing up in a small northern town in British Columbia, Canada, Diane Hart always knew she wanted to work with children and youth.
Growing up in a small northern town in British Columbia, Canada, Diane Hart always knew she wanted to work with children and youth. When she first learned about child life in high school, sitting in on classes at the University of Victoria’s Child and Youth Care program, she never imagined that the field she chose would one day pay tribute to her with one of its most prestigious honors, the Child Life Council’s Distinguished Service Award. 
After graduating from the University of Victoria’s School of Child and Youth Care with a specialization in child life in 1988, Diane immediately started her career as a child life specialist at BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) on the adolescent unit. Her career has flourished at BCCH where she has transformed services for children and families from her days as a child life specialist to her current position as director of patient- and family-centered care.

Diane credits her long tenure at BCCH to the amazing opportunities to be involved with community and special projects and her organization’s support for her work on these endeavors. Taking advantage of the many opportunities that presented themselves is what has allowed Diane to rise to the top, gaining valuable experiences and increasing her skill set with each experience. Beginning early in her career, Diane was able to spearhead the creation of the ON TRAC transition program; at the time, an innovation in transition planning and support for young patients and families preparing for the move to adult care. Developed with nursing and physician colleagues, this program continues to grow and thrive today. A few years later, Diane had the chance to take a one-year leave of absence from the child life department to work in the BCCH Foundation as a fundraising manager, a position that gave Diane the opportunity to make valuable connections and strong relationships with the foundation and its donors. Upon her return to the child life department to resume her role as site supervisor, Diane expanded the music therapy program, developed a child life creative arts program, implemented a trial of child life services in the outpatient lab, and secured additional support for inpatient child life services.

Her path to her current position as director of patient- and family-centered care has made multiple impacts and positive change for the children, families, and staff at BCCH. She designed, implemented, and evaluated a child life fellowship in radiology and the surgical program at BCCH. When funding from the initial fellowship grant ended, Diane was able to secure additional funding to keep the program running. Letters of support for Diane have poured in to the CLC awards committee representing colleagues in nursing, medicine, child life, and executive administration. The letters all speak to Diane’s commitment, poise, warmth, professional attitude, integrity, leadership, and passion for family centered care.

Outside of the impressive array of projects she has led and leadership positions she has held at BCCH, Diane has and continues to play an active role in both the Canadian Association of Child Life Leaders (CACLL) and the Child Life Council. She has held the position of president in both associations – an accomplishment only a select few in the child life field have attained, and a career highlight for Diane. She has been involved as a member of several different committees and working groups for both organizations. Diane has served on the CLC Board of Directors for seven years in various positions, has chaired the Nominating Committee, Past Presidents Advisory Group, Leadership Development Committee, Conference Planning Committee, and currently chairs the Bylaws Subcommitttee. The opportunity to be chair of the CLC Conference Planning Committee early in her career was particularly impactful as she credits the experience as a real cornerstone that led to the introduction of many influential, life-long colleagues and friends, and to a range of volunteer experiences relevant to the child life profession that followed.

In 2006, Diane completed her Master’s of Art in Leadership and Training to add to her impressive resume. Her role as a leader, mentor, and teacher involves strengthening ties between BCCH and the community at large. Diane has been instrumental in developing a child life internship program that links outlying general hospitals with paediatric units to BCCH and local universities offering child life internships, ensuring a well rounded clinical training experience. Her role as a member of the Partners in Care Parent Advisory Committee over the years resulted in the Award of Distinction given to Diane in 2013—a high honour bestowed upon BCCH staff who go above and beyond in their advocacy and support of family centered care.

Diane has particularly valued the ability to participate in the CLC program development and review service, utilizing her years of experience to offer suggestions and recommendations to help other programs succeed. Diane’s advice for future leaders of the child life profession is to “take advantage of opportunities as they come up, appreciate them, and run with them!” Although the timing of opportunities has not always been ideal, she never turned away from them, no matter how scary or overwhelming they seemed, and found these experiences to be career-changing. In particular, Diane encourages child life specialists to get involved with CLC and their local organizations. She believes that, as a profession, we have one of the most engaged memberships of any professional association, and involvement of professionals at various levels really helps to keep our profession strong because “front line child life staff represent the job and our field on a daily basis to patients, families, and other health care professionals”.

Looking back on the last 28 years of her career, Diane’s most rewarding highlights include the creation of the child life fellowship program at BCCH, and most recently, the BCCH site re-development project, where the child life team has been fully involved, ensuring that patients and families are engaged and included in the decision making process. Diane’s qualification in Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC), in conjunction with her knowledge of family-centered care, give her involvement in the re-development project an added impact. In achieving the EDAC certification, Diane demonstrates her commitment to continue learning and growing as a leader, building on her knowledge base along the way, and staying informed about best practices in a variety of areas, both within and outside of the child life profession.

Diane’s colleagues and friends describe her as having a wry sense of humour, and note that she generously shares her joy of travel, is a fabulous and fun event planner, and wears a different seasonal outfit for every day of December! She is confident enough to allow herself to be herself, and people are drawn to her. She is a natural speaker and advocate, using these skills every day in support of child life and the CLC, and supporting those qualities in others around her. Diane’s drive and ambition extend to her personal life as well. Diane is currently training for her 10th half-marathon! Balancing her work with a fulfilling personal life also includes an interest in photography, a love of reading, and a passion for traveling. Diane is a shining star and being bestowed with the Distinguished Service Award will provide her with the recognition she deserves for all that she has done in contributing to the successes of the child life profession, BCCH, her community, and her colleagues. .

Please join us in celebrating Diane’s achievements at the Distinguished Service Award Presentation, which will take place on Friday, May 20, during the Opening Session of the 34th Annual Conference on Professional Issues in Orlando, Florida.


Since 1988, the Child Life Council has honored the child life profession’s outstanding leaders and pioneers with the Distinguished Service Award. This award recognizes exceptional members, not only for their outstanding contributions to the field of child life, but also for their professional experience, leadership, integrity, and vision. Award recipients are nominated by members of the CLC Awards Committee in July, and nominations are typically reviewed and approved by the CLC Board of Directors in November. To suggest a child life leader who meets the aforementioned criteria for consideration, please contact an Awards Committee member at To read about previous recipients of the Distinguished Service Award, please visit the CLC website. 

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