Please note that some of these situations or experiences may be things you’ve never considered could be a part of a child life specialist’s job duties.
That’s okay. While every day may not be sunshine, rainbows and butterflies – not every day is like this either. Any job is going to have good/bad parts to it. This is just my way of sharing these parts of the job in a transparent way so that you are aware that we do so much more than play.
The child life specialists that I asked these questions to are still active and working in the field. So while it may be the not-so-good parts of child life, they are able to process these things and continue to do the good work that child life provides to patients and families every day.
Continuous Rapport Building
So how do we educate staff about our role?
It can be difficult to earn respect for what we do outside of providing bubbles and an iPad. Continuous rapport building with staff is JUST as important as building rapport with patients and families. In my opinion, it’s even more important to build good rapport with your staff. They are the ones that are checking patients’ vitals every hour, seeing families repeatedly throughout the day, and have that ability to make assessments hourly. If they know you’re working that day and see something that child life could be helpful in providing support, they will call you! As a child life specialist on a unit of 20-40 patients at a time, one can’t be in 40 places at once. You must rely on your team to make assessments and call you when you’re needed, appropriately; more than just your bubbles, toys or iPad.
“Child Life” and “Just”
Sometimes, you’ll find that no matter how much education you do, your integration into the team through events, committees, in-services and more – some staff members will still refer to you as “child life”.
At first when I was asking Certified Child Life Specialists their opinions on this blog topic, I hadn’t even considered this as a sign of disrespect. But they’re right. I am the child life specialist – but I also have a name. Using your coworkers’ names in conversation with staff, patients and families is a great way to set this example, hopefully for others who may not think to call you by your name but continue to refer to you as “child life”.
Another example of this, that I see not only happening with child life specialists but also other disciplines, is the word “just” before our role.
“That’s not her nurse. That’s just the child life specialist.”
“No one is at the bedside with the patient. Well, rather just the child life specialist.”
While I may not be who you’re looking for at the time – I am THE child life specialist. You’re right, I’m not this child’s nurse. But I am their child life specialist. Putting the word “just” before the role diminishes it greatly.
So What Can You Do?
If you want respect, you must continue to give respect; even during those times where you’d rather pull your hair out by the roots and completely lose your cool on someone.
Keep that smile on your face, continue to do your job well, and throw in a little education when you can. I’ve found the most luck providing education to staff visually. When a staff member walks into a room that I’m providing procedural preparation to a child or engaging a child in medical play – these circumstances are always a win and usually encourage the staff member to engage me in conversation afterward about what I was doing and why.
When they see child life in action repeatedly, they’ll never want to do a procedure without you again.