Skip to main content

Racheal Niensteadt works her dream job every day

March is Child Life Month, a month where hospitals celebrate child life specialists and the Child Life profession through education and awareness of their work. To honor these dedicated professionals during the month of March, CMN Hospitals will highlight the top 10 nominees submitted for the 2020 Delta Child Life Specialist of the Year award.

Very few people get to say that they got their dream job right out of college, but Racheal Niensteadt, BS, CCLS, can. Her career as a Child Life Specialist at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, is still her dream job today. 

Racheal is a warm and caring person who uplifts everyone she meets. She is able to help patients and their families find joy even in the darkest days, a skill that is necessary in the Pediatric Oncology unit. 

The patients and family members that Racheal serves have shared many stories of how she went above and beyond to help them during their hospital stay. Here is just one of those stories:

“Before my daughter, Katie, age 7 at the time, entered the hospital with leukemia, I had no idea what a Child Life Specialist was. That all changed on day one when we met Racheal. Katie took to Racheal right away. Racheal brought Katie a ‘Chemo Duck’ and explained what a port was and how the chemotherapy medicine would be administered through it. We spent 117 days in the hospital. During that time, Racheal was always there with a smile and a hug for Katie. When she would come to visit, Katie would send me out of the room so that she and Racheal could have ‘girl time.’ It was so nice to have someone care about my child the way that Racheal did — and for me too! Racheal recognized how hard it was for me as a single parent. Once I was sitting on the floor in the bathroom crying. When I came out, I found a gift card for the coffee shop and a note saying that I was a great Mom and not to be too hard on myself.”

Racheal’s compassion and infectious personality are essential to the overall morale of the hospital. She organizes holiday celebrations, game nights, birthday parties, sibling events and personalized end-of-chemo celebrations. She also helps patients and families navigate difficult situations and learn how to talk about medical diagnoses and even death in an age appropriate way. 

The relationships that Racheal builds with patients, families, staff and community donors all serve to provide the best possible care to children. She helps operate the School Re-entry Program to help educate patients’ classmates and teachers at their school. She also helped develop a Child Life Fellowship and personally mentors a young professional pursuing a Child Life career each year. 

Racheal Niensteadt lives in Williamsburg, Iowa, with her husband and two children. She also has a twin sister, Megan, who works with her every day at the hospital. She enjoys gardening, crafts, and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. 

Child Life Specialists help normalize the hospital experience and bring joy and comfort to hospitalized kids and their families. Many of the funds raised by CMN Hospitals are used to fund Child Life programs and help make up the gap between what government and insurance pay for and the actual cost of caring for kids in our member hospitals.