January 6th marks my 2 year anniversary of being a working Child Life Specialist. With a little more experience under my belt, I thought I’d be fun to make a little list of things I’ve learned this past year. Enjoy!
- Trying to help with a procedure you know from experience is always difficult is better than not trying at all. Practice makes perfect and it’s important to show to your multidisciplinary team that you’re there to provide support no matter what.
- It’s very important to know what your gross-factor cut off point is. This you will only learn by experience. I am well aware of how much I can stomach and if I am ever in a situation where I’m providing support during one of those procedures, I take my own advice and continue to take deep breaths while providing support for the patient from behind the iPad/I Spy book.
- Don’t underestimate the impact you make in the lives of children and their families – even if they’re quiet the whole time you’re with them or even if the patient has a hard time coping and your interventions are not successful. I have had many patients I thought I didn’t make a great impact on come back and tell me how thankful they are that I was there for them.
- Sometimes bubbles work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes distraction with the iPad works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes prizes are appreciated, sometimes they’re not. All children and their families are different and you cannot beat yourself up about failed attempts.
- I’ve also built a strong relationship with my co-workers, or should I say, my work family this past year. While you’re in school you pretty much have the same circling group of people around you for 4 years, and then you all move on and do your own thing. Well, the workplace is kind of like that too, only you have 1 class with about 80 people and there isn’t an upcoming graduation where you all move on to new things together. It’s different. It’s special. I’ve never been a part of something like this before and I am so blessed to work with such an amazing team. It’s so beautiful to see my colleagues grow up in their personal lives as well as in their profession. Most importantly, building this sense of “work family” helps a lot when working in such a high stress environment to provide the best care for our patient’s and their families.
- Do not be afraid to speak to the doctors. They do not bite! They are human beings with families that probably love game of thrones just as much as you do. Ask them questions about your patients, ask them how their day is going, and if you and the nurses are going to order pizza for lunch, ask them if they’d like to join! Just because they have a “Dr.” at the beginning of their name doesn’t mean that they are that much different from you.
- I have now successfully survived two holiday seasons in the hospital (aka, donation seasons). I always send donors a personalized thank you note in the mail. No matter how small the donation. Working at a children’s hospital within an adult hospital really does make you appreciate every single barbie and matchbox car that is donated to your program. I cannot stress enough how far these donations go in making the hospital experience less threatening for children and teens and I always make sure to let my donors know how thankful I am for their generosity.
- Being flexible is a very important trait of being a Child Life Specialist. From prepping a patient for a procedure and then suddenly the entire plan of care changes, to preparing to provide support for a patient when then realizing it’s the sibling that really needs your support, to administrative situations like working 3pm-11pm one day to come in at 8am the next day for a special event, to having changes in the budget, to new policies and procedures, etc. You have to be able to go with the flow and adapt as quickly as possible. Especially in a fast paced ER! But that’s all part of the fun, right?
- If you feel you need more support or experience with something that you’re not too comfortable with, go out there and find it for yourself! Post on the Child Life forum, search for volunteer opportunities, or even search the Child Life Council for support. You have to be a go getter and gain the skills and experience to be the best CLS you can be!
Two years later and I still impress myself with how magical and overall important the Child Life profession really is. I look forward to sharing another year of my adventure with you all!
Thanks for reading & Happy New Year, Child Life!