I have always had a passion for students. Taking it way back to when I was a child playing with my sister, I was always the teacher during our pretend play. I had toyed with the idea of going to school to be a teacher, but didn’t love the aspect of a room full of 25 children. I love children, don’t get me wrong, but it does take special people to do the job of classroom “teacher” and that was not my calling.
In 2013, when I first stumbled upon child life during my undergrad, I took the binder that my advisor handed me haphazardly stating, “I don’t know anything about this career, but this kind of sounds like what you’re looking for,” and full-on sprinted back to my dorm room.
I read that giant binder front-to-back in one night. God bless the person before me who had put together a binder of all things child life. After finishing it, I hopped on a phone call to the closest children’s hospital almost two hours away from my little college and set up a job shadow with the child life specialist. I was giddy from the second I entered the hospital.
July to August 2014 I completed a 200-hour practicum.
The next month in September I turned in my 27 applications for internships.
October, I was offered my internship.
In December, I graduated from my undergrad with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
January 2015, I started my internship.
By the end of my internship in April I was being called by the hospital that I did my practicum at offering me my first child life job (PRN).
From the moment I discovered child life to the moment I finished my internship, it was a year and a half.
All of this to say…I like the hustle. I like the to-do lists, the anxiety behind deadlines, and the rush to get things done and get them done right. I don’t say all of this to make you upset with your journey – we all move at our own pace and I can ASSURE you that there’s a reason yours is going slower than some – but this is my favorite thing to do.
In 2016 I created a proposal and piloted our child life program in our Outpatient Surgery Center with my coworker and assisted my other coworker who had originally worked with our practicum students. 2016 was a busy year of practicum students and starting a new program.
By 2017 I had officially taken over as our program’s practicum supervisor, and continued with that hat until 2021 when I resigned and pivoted to the community setting as a Certified Child Life Specialist. It was my absolute favorite thing about my job. I loved seeing the “lightbulb moments” when students learned something that they’d only read about in textbooks.
The students we took got absolutely immersed into the field with a short five-week practicum, 40 hours per week. They truly got to feel what it was like to be a full-time child life specialist and I think that’s so important.
They first started off on the Pediatric/Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with me where they would see anything from IVs, lab draws, MRIs, CTs, X-Rays, PICC lines, NG tubes and more.
Next they’d shadow my coworkers on the Hematology/Oncology Clinic and Outpatient Surgery Center where they’d observe port accesses, new diagnosis teachings, and a variety of surgery preps for children of different developmental levels.
On their fourth week they’d shadow our child life specialist in the Emergency Department and get to see everything – hopefully at least one or two sutures as that procedure is unique to that unit.
Their last week was my favorite because it was a “make-your-own” week. They had the opportunity to choose to go back to a unit that they felt they didn’t get as much experience due to census, one they felt could be their “niche,” or they could mix it up and choose to go back to all the units for one day each. I loved seeing what they choose as their last week and why!
For a small children’s hospital within an adult hospital, I really felt like our students got to see a whole bunch! But we only offered our practicums during the summer.
That’s why, in 2018, I created The Child Life Mentor. And I absolutely loved it. I loved getting to walk alongside students from all over the United States pursuing practicums and internships. So many “lightbulb moments” happened during these mentoring sessions! In 2020, I pushed myself even further and began in-person mentoring through my student retreats during the summers.
The biggest change that I saw in both my practicum students and mentees was their level of confidence; the confidence they find in themselves, their abilities, and their hopes and dreams for the future. I love getting to witness the spark of confidence that comes when they begin to realize they can really do this.