CLC2017

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It’s almost time again for the national Child Life Conference and this year it’s in Las Vegas, Nevada! To see the (super exciting) program for conference click here. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to be attending this year’s conference, but if I don’t, the Association of Child Life Professionals has a wonderful backup plan for those that can’t make it all the way to Vegas this May. After you register for the conference, for $50 more you can purchase the “All Access Pass”. With this pass, you are able to watch all of the sessions that were at the conference and receive professional development units (PDU’s) for them! I purchased the “All Access Pass” for last year’s conference (which I was able to attend in person) and I HIGHLY recommend it. You have 1 year before the sessions expire and you can watch them all on your own time at your own speed. Now if we can just get them to mail us our complimentary tote bags and SWAG from all of the exhibitors we’ll be all set!

Whether you’re planning on attending or not, here are some conference tips:

  • Students: If you’re financially able to go to conference, GO!!!! I cannot stress this enough. I truly wish someone had told me when I was a student to attend one of these conferences. They’re incredible and you’ll leave ready to take on the child life world! Plus, not only is it a great place to network, and learn, it’s also something you can add to your resume that will prove to potential practicum/internship coordinators that you are truly interested in the field of child life.
  • Looking for a new job? Go to the conference! As I mentioned above this is a great place to network and there are even boards where you can post up your resume for potential interviews!
  • For those who cannot attend this year, try and do the all access pass! This is the option I’m leaning towards and yes, it’s not as fun as actually going to the conference, but the sessions this year really are phenomenal. Look at the program and highlight the sessions you’d be interested in – if you highlighted your entire program in yellow like I did, get the all access pass!
  • For those of you that are going to the conference, HAVE FUN! I was in Las Vegas last year for vacation – in fact, that is where the photo above came from! I highly recommend the Beatles love cirque du Soleil show – I laughed, cried, and fell in love again with the Beatles – 100% worth it. I also highly recommend checking out red rock canyon, which is about an hour outside of Vegas. They have tours and breathtaking views – do your research and get your desert fix.
  • Hurry! Prices for the conference will rise on April 1st, 2017! Register ASAP! 

 

Child Life Students

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  • The university I am attending/will be attending does not have a Child Life program – what do I do? 
    • One of the many wonderful things about the child life profession is that you do not need to major specifically in child life to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). The university I attended for my undergrad did not have a child life specific major either – I majored in Family and Child Sciences and Spanish. Instead pick a major that relates to child life (i.e., child development, psychology, etc.).
      • “Applicants must have completed a total of 10 college – or university-level courses in child life or a related department/subject including a minimum of one child life course (defined below) taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). This is the form on which the CCLS instructor verifies that the child life-specific curriculum has been taught.” http://www.childlife.org/certification
  • Which classes specifically should I be taking in college that will count towards my eligibility assessment? 
    • This is a question I get asked VERY often. For such specific information, I always urge my readers to contact someone at the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP) so that they can give you the most precise answer. Email: certification@childlife.org  However, I can tell you that you need 10 college level courses that relate to Child Life including at least one course taught by a certified child life specialist. If your university does not offer a child life major or child life track, then they probably won’t have this course and you will need to take it elsewhere. I took mine as an online course from the University of New Hampshire. For more information on the 10 courses, click here: http://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/exam/cl-course-verification-form—final.pdf?sfvrsn=12
  • What is the “eligibility assessment”?
    • The eligibility assessment is basically the gate between all of the education and clinical work you have completed and sitting to take the child life certification exam. It’s great to begin the process of adding courses to your eligibility assessment form as soon as possible to make sure you’re on the right track. Once you have your Bachelor’s degree, 10 courses (1 of which was taught by a CCLS), and your internship completed, then you can submit your eligibility assessment. If approved, you may then register to take the certification exam. If not approved, then you will need to go back, fulfill the requirements and resubmit. For more information on the eligibility assessment process, click here: http://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/eligibility-assessment-process-pdf.pdf
  • Should I go to grad school right after I finish my Bachelor’s degree or should I begin my practicum/internship? 
    • This is another question that I often get asked which I cannot answer. Everyone’s adventure in child life is different. Personally, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, then did my practicum, then my internship, then became certified, and a year into my career as a CCLS, I began my Master’s degree. This wasn’t the right path or the wrong path – it was just my path and what worked best for me at the time. For specific questions regarding your path, e-mail the ACLP – certification@childlife.org 
  • Do you need a Master’s degree to become a CCLS? 
  • Do you have any tips or suggestions on how I can stand out in the Child Life world? 
  • Why, yes! I do! In fact, I wrote all my tips on this post: https://adventuresinchildlife.com/2015/11/07/how-to-stand-out-in-the-child-life-world/
  • Do you have any advice on how to study for the child life exam? 
  • This is another frequent question I receive which I have also written about here and here.

 

Asthma Education

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Asthma is a pretty common diagnosis, not just on the respiratory unit where I work, but everywhere! I had asthma as a kid and I know lots of other kids around me had it too. It was something pretty “normal” to me growing up and I never really thought twice about what it was, why I had it, and I loved that it came with the perk of not having to run the mile in P.E. Even while working in the ER, a chief complaint of asthma was not a high priority compared to everything else coming into the department  (unless the patient had a very bad asthma attack).

Seeing more and more asthmatics come onto my unit now in the “winter” months down here in Miami, I began doing lots of research on different asthma education resources. I found tons of resources just by typing in “asthma education for children” in Google.

Here are just a few I found:

The list goes on and on and on, however, after a couple of asthma teachings using these resources, I felt like something was missing. I wanted to my patients to reach specific goals I had for them which were not always all covered by the resources I found.

My goals for my asthma lesson plan are:

  • What part of the body is affected by asthma (lungs)
  • How many lungs they have (you’ll be surprised how many older school aged kids have told me 1!)
  • What happens when you have an asthma attack (bronchial tubes become tighter)
  • What can cause an asthma attack (identifying triggers)
  • How can you help lungs/airways feel better if you have asthma (long-term medicine/quick relief medicine)
  • and what are the symptoms you might feel when you are in the green, yellow, or red zone (self-awareness)

I mixed some pages from various resources I found online and also created some pages myself to help me get my message across the way I feel is best for my patients. While creating my new asthma education packet, I still felt like I was missing an effective concrete example demonstrating the difference between healthy lungs and lungs experiencing an asthma attack. That’s when I created the activity below!

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  • While going over our asthma education packet, the patient and I cut out lungs from the packet (the best  printable version of lungs I found were from this website: http://learncreatelove.com/printable-lungs-craft/ ).
  • Then the patient and I will glue the lungs onto paper lunch bags. In an effort to save paper/materials, we make 1 lung with asthma and 1 lung without asthma vs 2 lungs with asthma and 2 lungs without asthma.
  • After we glue the lungs onto the paper bag, we tape a smoothie straw into one lung and a cocktail straw into the other lung. I have the patient then blow into the healthy lung and suck the air out a few times. Then I have the patient blow into the lung with asthma and such the air out a few times as well. This way, the patient can clearly experience the difference in breathing and how it is much more difficult to breathe during an asthma attack than when lungs are healthy. *Check with the patient’s nurse before doing this activity to make sure the patient is clinically stable enough to do breathing exercises. You wouldn’t want to exacerbate them!*
  • After this activity the patient and I then continue with the education packet (triggers, medicines, etc.)

There are TONS of resources on asthma out there – asthma books, asthma camps, asthma videos, asthma games…look on the child life forum too! As a reinforcer, I also created an asthma memory game to make patients more aware of common terminology usually associated with asthma (albuterol, pulmonologist, inhaler, spacer, etc.). I also encourage them to download (with their parent’s permission) an app called “Widzy pets” which centers around asthma education in a fun way.

What are some ways you help your patients learn about asthma?

Favorite Find

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I am so excited to have signed up for a 3-day kids yoga teacher training which is coming to Miami next month. Let me start off by saying I’m not a yoga teacher nor would I consider myself a yogi. My experience with yoga is nothing more than the occasional free class at the park or gym every now and then. Maybe a back bend or two at home when I’m in need of a good stretch, but nothing more.

About a week ago I stumbled upon Rainbow Kids Yoga – a company that focuses on giving its students the tools they need to teach yoga to children and families around the world. By glancing at their class schedule, it’s easy to see Rainbow Kids is everywhere – around the US, Europe, South America – everywhere!

How can this class help me as a child life specialist? These are just a few items on the agenda that I know I can use in my day-to-day work as a CCLS: Making yoga work for different age groups, breath and yogic breath for kids, yoga for children with additional needs, relaxation and guided imagery for children, meditation for different age groups

Aside from enhancing my clinical skills, I will also be able to teach children yoga on my free time if I desire as I will have “Registered Children Yoga Teacher (RCYT) status”.

*Cough* *Cough* To all those child life students looking for credentials to spice up their resume’s and stand out in a crowd of applications – look into this! 

Stay tuned for a part 2 of this post after I complete the training!

For an overview of the training click here: http://www.rainbowyogatraining.com/3-day-kids-yoga

You can see the class schedule & register for the upcoming class in Miami here: https://events.bizzabo.com/201924/agenda

 

World Diabetes Day

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Today is world diabetes day! I thought I’d share one of my favorite resources to teach patients about diabetes. American Girl makes these adorable diabetes care kits which our child life team is lucky enough to be able to give away (along with an American Girl doll) to our newly diagnosed patients. The kit serves as a great teaching tool by including: a daily log, an insulin pen, glucose pills, and more! I love using this kit as a guide while reviewing diabetes education with patients by seeing how much they know & answering any questions that may arise. What are some cool ways you teach patients about diabetes? 

Grape medicine cups 

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Taking medicine isn’t always easy – especially when it needs to be taken every day for an extended period of time. Non-compliance with taking medicine can also cause a great deal of stress for parents, especially when it’s the one thing keeping the patient from being discharged. One of my patients was having a hard time with this task so to make things a bit more tolerable, we decorated her medicine cups. This patient really wanted it to be grape flavor however we couldn’t give her that option for this particular medication. To try and fix her grape craving, we stuck with the grape theme for her medicine cups. The medicine is still unpleasant, but creating these cups & giving her choices made the whole process a little more tolerable. What are some ways you help patients be compliant with taking their meds?

Let’s talk about burnout

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Looking through my blog you can quickly notice that it mostly contains the good in the field of child life. Naturally, I am not a negative person thus I don’t highlight the bad – i.e., being called for support after 3 failed IV attempts, not having necessary resources to fulfill patient needs, getting a referral to “entertain” a patient. Though definitely annoying, there’s bad like this within any career in one way or another and it’s just something you learn how to handle. However, I’m going to take a deep breath and write this post about the ugly that I’ve experienced during my time as a CCLS  burnout.  

Some of you may remember that up until February of this year, I was working independently in a pediatric emergency department at a children’s hospital within an adult hospital. I began working there 1 month after my internship and had to quickly learn the ropes of the ER flow, culture, and procedures/diagnosis, as well as educate the staff on my role, advocate for resources I needed to fulfill patient needs, and personally adjust my life to being a new young professional! That is a lot for anyone and much more so for someone working in an independent child life program. I did not complain or see this part of my adventure as daunting – I was excited and ready to take on this challenge! This is what I had studied for. This is what I had done internships for. This was my calling.

Day in and day out I juggled all of my new challenges and with sweat, tears, and so much love, I had successfully implemented my role as a CCLS amongst my ER team. I knew I was doing something right when the ER physicians would fight over who “got me” for their upcoming procedure;”You had her last time! My kid is terrified and I need her to help him be still for these sutures!” Music to any child life specialist’s ears, right?

The needs of any emergency department call for more staff to be on shift in the later hours of the day which is when most patient’s visit the emergency room. That being said, my shift was from 3pm – 11pm, Monday through Friday, and every other weekend (Saturday and Sunday shift, same hours). Looking back, this was the poison that caused my burnout – my schedule.

I began to feel desensitized towards my work and my interactions with patients and families began to seem routine. I felt as though I had reached a plateau in my clinical skills – I knew what I knew and what I didn’t know I didn’t have another CCLS to seek advice from so I didn’t feel I was growing. I’d spend entire shifts in and out of long procedures only to then be frowned upon by higher-ups because I had “only” seen x number of patients that day. As time went on I also felt I’d dwell on the little things (the bad) much more than I once would. I hated that I felt this way so early on in my career. I hated that I didn’t have another CCLS to speak to about professional and clinical issues I was facing. I hated that I didn’t have the support/understanding/resources from higher ups in my hospital. Most of all, I hated that I had to work the shift that I did and that it was poisoning my love for child life.

My black cloud (schedule issue) was especially hard for me because everyone else in the department – physicians, nurses, ED techs, respiratory therapists, patient transporters, medical scribes, even my two child life assistants – they all worked 12-hour shifts! I was the only employee in the emergency department that worked 40 hours a week, odd hours, weekends, with direct patient care. I collected data, research articles, and proposals of ways I could alter my schedule (working four  10-hour shifts versus the current five 8 hour shifts) and presented this to my manager. Unfortunately, I was told my proposal did not meet the needs of the department and so no changes could be made.

Now I know what you might be thinking (because I thought it too) – I signed up for this! Yes, I absolutely did and I was eager and ready to do so at the time. But after a year and a half of working 5 days a week in such a fast-paced and high-stress environment, it happened. I became burnt out. I did my research and unfortunately found lots of information on how to avoid burnout but very little on what to do when it actually happened. I was completely lost and disheartened – I knew I loved being a child life specialist. I loved the way I was able to help kids in crisis – I knew what to do, what to say, and I did it so well that physicians would wait their turn for me to help their patients.

Maybe I should’ve posted on the child life forum about my burnout, maybe I should’ve presented my research and data to the director of the ER, maybe I should’ve found a new job before I ever even got to that point. The thing about burnout (for me at least) is that I didn’t realize it was happening until I was already down the rabbit hole and by that point, I didn’t have the passion or drive to try and get myself out.

So how did I get myself out of burnout? I spent a LOT of time on the child life council’s web page searching the forum for data on emergency room child life hours, searching for the articles on burnout, and searching for the slightest indication that there was another CLS  out there in the same predicament I was in. That’s when I found my cure – the child life council’s mentor/mentee program. I submitted my application and was accepted into this incredible program where I was partnered with a mentor – a veteran child life specialist!

The way that the program works is that you highlight different areas that you would like support with. Then from January – June, you and your mentor have a monthly phone call (or meet in person if able) to discuss your issues. You’re also able to attend a monthly webinar which focus on different issues many may be facing (i.e., communication skills, leadership skills, etc.). I cannot begin to explain what an incredible impact this program had not only on my career but in my personal life as well. I finally had the support I had been craving all along and with it, I found my passion, drive, and confidence to be proactive towards my career goals.

Fast forward to present day, I did end up leaving the emergency room as I felt it was very important for me to work as a part of a child life team. I am very thankful and still do feel blessed that I had the opportunity to spend two years in the ER. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I truly learned so much about medicine, the importance of teamwork, and about myself. I’ll always miss my old department and especially all of the amazing people I worked alongside. Though I did hit a low while I was there, I have an abundance of positive memories of my first two years as a CCLS which outweigh the bad and the ugly in hindsight.

I find comfort in knowing that the child life council offers a program like this one for its members. For anyone in search of guidance, support, or wanting to further their professional skills – I highly recommend this program! For information on the mentor/mentee program, click the following link: http://www.childlife.org/ldi/mentoring.cfm