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.
Donations + Consults
On a lighter note – we do a lot of odd jobs. We get some crazy weird donations. Those can always serve as a refreshing laugh to “blah” days. Check out The iPad Lady’s Instagram highlights here for an awesome list of crazy donations. Stripper Barbie, condoms, human hair – our communities are so generous!
Also on a similar note – child life specialists can get some absolutely bizarre consults. The iPad Lady’s Instagram also has a lovely highlight here of cringe-worthy consults.
“Please bring fly swatter“,
“pill swallowing for an 11-month-old“,
“homicidal patient – was wondering if you could stop by and cheer him up”
the list goes on…
Lots of Hats
The hospital never closes – so there are always children there, even during the holidays. That means child life specialists often get to be the Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and more. It’s really whatever the child needs at the time. I’ve worked Christmas Eve multiple times and wrapped countless gifts for the nightshift nurses to bring into the rooms at night as “Santa’s gifts” arriving Christmas morning. I’ve been the Tooth Fairy a handful of times, putting pink glitter on dollar bills – because when you’re hospitalized, the tooth fairy gets REAL spiffy.
Being a team player is a big part of child life. It helps you to build better rapport with your team/staff if you can chip in and help when you’re not busy. For instance, during the pandemic, a lot of child life specialists found themselves in the beginning with not a lot to do. A lot of hospitals slowed way down, especially in the pediatric world as everyone was staying home. The adult world is what started to boom and it was a big deal for child life specialists to support their coworkers as best they could, especially in the Emergency Department where things move so quickly. Helping to strip a room, clean and bring patients back to rooms when everyone else was busy made transitions so much easier.
Beyond the Clinical Role
When not busy with patient care though, child life specialists do so many things beyond our clinical role. When you think about all of the things we do, we look like superheroes. On top of patient care, we are also responsible for supervising volunteers, participating in hospital events, walking groups around the hospital, accepting donations, writing thank you notes, sitting on committees to educate staff, presenting to the community as well as staff during in-services, sitting in meetings for the team/unit you’re a part of, taking referrals for various organizations, keeping the units stocked with toys, craft activities, admission gifts, and more… it can be exhausting!
“To-do” lists are my very best friend to stay organized throughout the day!
When you think about starting a new program – either within the hospital or community – a lot of your energy and time will go into program development. There is a huge administrative side to child life, which isn’t normally recognized. Researching and writing solid evidenced-based practices/procedures/protocols, developing supply lists, identifying and working with potential donors, and educating staff are all big parts of starting a new program.
Time management is of the utmost importance to balance all of that along with patient care.