So… about grad school…

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Now that I’m well into my first semester of grad school I thought I’d take the time to let you all know how it’s going. Being that this is my first time going to school while working full time, I thought it’d be a good idea to only take one class my first semester. This way I would be able to learn how to properly balance my time between work and school as well as see how crazy the workload really is for grad school.

Work Load:¬†The class I am currently taking is an introductory course to developmental disabilities & is, as the rest of my courses will be, 100% online. We have chapters we need to read each week which range from 20-60 pages depending on the context. At the end of the week, we are to post to a discussion board online¬†and reply to at least one classmate’s post. We also¬†have a few projects/papers to turn in throughout the semester.¬†The writing hasn’t been so bad to be honest, but what has been challenging is getting in the habit of using APA format! We also have 4 times during the semester where we meet on our “online classroom” where the professor gives a small lecture and we’re able to ask questions. No exams, except the final which will also be online.

Time Management: Since I work in the ER, my hours are 3pm-11pm, 5 days a week & every other weekend. So, my mornings and days off are when I’m able to do school work. I’ve found that I am able to manage my time accordingly and will definitely be ready to take two courses next semester. I do miss the “in class” aspect of school but, this “all online” version is so much more¬†convenient¬†and I feel it really is why I’m able to balance work and school so easily.

Course Content:¬†I am LOVING learning about developmental disabilities and cannot wait to start taking my “concentration courses” about Child Life!

& my adventure continues…

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Today is the first day of school for many down here in Miami, so I figured today is a good day to announce to my followers that I’ve been accepted into grad school at Nova Southeastern University! The degree will be in Developmental Disabilities with a concentration in Child Life. This will be the first time that I’m working full time and going to school but luckily, the masters program is 100% online! I am so lucky to have been accepted into such an amazing program – I can’t wait to start!

If you’re interested in more information about the Developmental Disabilities masters program at Nova, click here: http://www.nova.edu/humanservices/devdisabilities/index.html

How I studied for the certification exam

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When I finally signed up to take my certification exam, I quickly became overwhelmed with what/how I had to study. The Child Life Council has a list of suggested materials for you to review before the test – ( http://childlife.org/files/CandidateManual.pdf — page 15) – but it can definitely be overwhelming to be given a list of textbooks as suggested study material . Here is what/how I studied for the certification exam (and yes, I passed on my first try!)

I began studying exactly one month before the date of my exam. I’ve never studied for one thing for so long with such a broad study guide so I knew I was in for an adventure.

Speaking of adventures, here’s a little timeline of my child life adventure – so you know where my studying starting point is: I graduated from college in spring 2012, took my intro to child life class in fall 2012, did my practicum in spring 2013, finished my internship in fall 2013, began working in January 2014, and was now taking the certification exam in March 2014. I’ve been consistently engaged with Child Life for 2 years – that being said, my studying was based on all that I’ve experienced and learned during my consistent Child Life adventure so I felt confident skipping over some material & focusing more on others.

So, first thing’s first: textbooks.

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I’m a very thorough note taker so having studied two of these books for my intro to child life course and the other two during my internship, I already had a ton of material to go over. I went through all of my notes of each chapter of each book and rewrote things I felt would come up on the test.

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The readings for ethics and the one for volunteers I had (luckily) made photo copies of from a friend and I’m so happy that I did! There were absolutely questions relating to these two topics on the exam. If you don’t have a copy of these materials already, get them! It may seem like a subject that’s common sense but reading through these two materials helped me a lot with various questions on the test.

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Another tool that helped me a lot were these two little gems from the Child Life Council. The study guide has great test taking tips and practice exams with answers! And, “the official documents of the Child Life Council” is a good resource to have whether you’re taking the test or not because it is filled with important information about our profession.

As for things I did not do:
– use the “child life certification exam” flash cards. I am HUGE on using flash cards to study but there was just so much information on each of the cards and a lot of lists “8 reasons ___”5 ways that children ___”10 most common ___”. I think I got through about 10 before I pushed them aside. They just didn’t “go” with my studying style.
– review a child development textbook or a nursing textbook. I felt confident enough with these two subjects based on all of my experiences leading up to this exam to be able to skip over them.
– try to rush or obsess over a question. While taking the test, if a question was unclear or if I was having trouble picking an answer, I left it blank and went back to it at the end of the test (you have FOUR hours!) This was a great tip because with the practice exams I noticed I would get ahead of myself and try and answer the questions as quickly as possible making me misread what the actual question was asking. Pay attention to what the question is asking and don’t be fooled by additional information given to try and trick you! and always always go back and reread your answers after you’ve completed your exam. always.
– study the day before the exam. By this point, I had studied for a MONTH. If I didn’t know something by this point I wasn’t going to learn it the day before the exam. My brain needed a much needed relaxing day off before the big show.
– freak out the day of. Sure, it was nerve wrecking, but as soon as I say down at the computer I said to myself “I’ve been studying every day for a month and I’ve been living this for two years. It’s time to answer some questions about this topic that I love so much.”

…And just like that, a (scary) two months later, I found out I had passed! (March 2014 exams took way longer to reveal test scores for some reason – lucky me. I’ve been told that you normally find out whether you’ve passed or failed immediately after you submit your test.)

Best of luck to all of you child life-ers out there studying!!

*Update 9/13/15* I have realized that the two resources on volunteers and ethics have been difficult to find. The copies that I have were photocopied and given to me along my Child Life journey so I am not even sure of the title of the book to be able to search on Amazon. Also, I cannot post the copies of the documents online as that may violate copyright regulations. If you think there is something better that I can do to (legally) provide this information to all of my aspiring Child Life Specialists, please, e-mail me and let me know! dianemo.ccls@gmail.com

Choosing Your Child Life Internship Project

Image¬† ¬† ¬† Usually towards the¬†end of your Child Life internship the time will come for you to create¬†a very¬†creative and unique¬†project that will truly show your passion for Child Life and creative abilities with almost no instructions given to you. No pressure, right? Most of us in Child Life are pretty creative to begin with so this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. However, it comes at time in your internship when you’re juggling assignments, being more/completely independent in your work with children, learning new things everyday, applying for jobs, thinking about the certification exam, and, oh yeah, your personal life too. It’s safe to say that towards the end of your internship you’re exhausted & under pressure preparing for the next step of your Child Life adventure, thus making it very difficult to get those creative juices flowing to come up with a¬†project.¬†Here are some of my experiences that helped me decide on what to do for my Child Life internship project:

¬† ¬† ¬† First and foremost, speak to your internship coordinator! See if there is anything that their Child Life department is lacking – resource wise. When it came time for me to think of an internship project I had ¬†complete “writers block”. I sat with my supervisor and asked what other interns had done in the past to kind of get a feel for what was expected of me. Some examples she told me were: one intern¬†created an app for the ipad with procedural¬†prep books that she created herself, another intern made¬†an introduction of services for child life video in english and spanish that could be played on the iPad, & another one made a little pocket guide for Child Life things in Spanish for the CCLS’ to carry with them incase they came across a family that only spoke Spanish. After hearing some¬†examples I felt more lost than I was before! A whole app with preps for different procedures?! How could I compete with that?! Your internship coordinator won’t/shouldn’t be telling you “make us ________, we saw it on Pinterest & would really love it.” – as I said before, this is a very special project that can show your true love and passion for Child Life – that is why it’s (usually) such an open ended assignment.

¬† ¬† ¬† Then next thing you should do is take a look at your experiences throughout your internship, the population you’ve worked with, and the Child Life department.¬†Is there anything that you can add/provide that would make things easier for staff, families, or patients? Is there a certain age group being left out of anything due to lack of resources? Through your rotations, did you ever think “Oh, I wish we had _____. It would really help me a lot to [explain] ____ to this patient.” Nothing coming to mind? Break it down some more – what were the tools/resources you used during your rotations? While asking myself these questions, I remembered that during my rotation in the ER they¬†had¬†coloring books to hand out to school-aged children, and for the teens they had… oh! wait! they don’t have anything to help the teens beat the boredom! AH HA!

¬† ¬† Once your inspiration hits, ask yourself another set of questions: is this going to be something that I will have time to complete?¬†You must be realistic in your commitment to complete your project. Also, how and why is this going to benefit the hospital/families/patients? It’s easy to steer off of the Child Life road when trying to decide on something to do with little instructions. Make sure that you make an outline of how your project will help support/relates to Child Life.

    During this stage is when I really developed my project: rather than slapping together some teen-friendly coloring sheets & crossword puzzles for the ER, I decided that I would make an introduction packet for teens to each unit. My packets included: a small list of words & their (teen friendly) definitions that they may hear on their unit, a page listing different things the hospital offers for their stay (activities, teen lounge, etc), a page about child life specialists Рwho we are, what we do, and how they can reach us, some therapeutic Mandala art, a blank page for them to jot down questions, and, depending on which unit it was for information/entertainment that applies. In total, I had 9 intro books customized for teens on each unit of the hospital that were each about 10 pages long. I kept in mind all of the developmental information I know about teenagers and what the hospital had to offer to support their development. In the end, my project was a great success!

  • My project supported child development in the hospital setting
  • My project assisted the Child Life team in providing information/services to their teen population
  • My project was age-appropriate for teenagers
  • My project helped promote coping and normalization for teen patients
  • My project ¬†answered age-appropriate questions teens may have

Tips for child life students

We’re living in a time when we’re pulling out our phones and taking pictures of everything. Take advantage of our easy access to photography and take pictures of your work! Therapeutic activities you come up with, medical art, crafts, child life events, cards/pictures given to you by patients, etc. You’ll love this decision when it comes time to applying to practicums/internships/jobs and you have a wide range of photos to choose from to include in your portfolio. In a field as competitive as ours, it’s important to really show what you have to offer & what better way than with an album of your best work!

* CAREFUL! Keep in mind there are laws & regulations when it comes to photographing patients in the hospital (HIPPA) – I am encouraging students to take pictures of their work , not of their patients. Not only is it against the law but a future employer will notice if you’ve violated these laws. *

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Tips for child life students

I remember feeling nervous a lot during my practicum and internship because I feared not knowing exactly what to do in any given situation – what if I prep a 6-year-old for a CT Scan and they still freak out? What do I say to a 14-year-old that just found out she is pregnant? How do I convince a 4-year-old to eat his scrambled eggs for his food allergy trial? Did this mean I didn’t study enough? Or that I wasn’t a good CCLS¬†in training? No!

It wasn’t until I was half way through my internship that I confessed this fear to my supervisor and she told me “You are not expected to know what to do in every situation. You’re a student and you’re here to learn from us. It’ll take many years of experience to know how to handle every situation and even then you might be surprised.” Those words helped me tremendously not only in accepting that there were things I have yet to learn but it also helped me focus on what I do know. Now, as a first year ccls, there are still situations that I won’t know exactly how to handle & that’s okay! With my academic background and the experiences from my practicum/internship, I feel confident that when an uncomfortable situation arises I’ll be able to figure it out.

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Child Life Conference: Recap!

Just last month I went to the Child Life Conference in New Orleans. This was my first time attending conference and it was MAGICAL! I don’t know why I had never gone as a student – I guess I thought that going to conference was more of a professionals thing to go to, but I was wrong! To all of you Child Life Students out there reading my blog, GO TO CONFERENCE IF YOU’RE ABLE TO! They have a little session for students and it’s such an amazing networking opportunity for future internships, jobs, and schools.

Here’s a recap of all of the fun:

Location:

New Orleans was a BLAST to visit. I’ve been to NOLA before but it’s such a fun city full of culture, delicious food, and child life specialists (during conference anyways)!

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Exhibit Hall:

Alright so, I love shopping just as much as the next girl… especially when it’s for Child Life things! The exhibit hall was full of vendors that tailor to Child Life Specialist. This was a great place to see what resources are out there in the Child Life world as a professional and for personal things like cute water bottles, child life badges, and postcards.

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Some of my favorites from the exhibit hall were:
(I was not paid by any of these companies/organizations to promote them – although, that would be really cool if I was.)

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http://www.alphabotz.com/ – no mess coloring play books

http://www.comfortkits.org/ – send free comfort kits to pediatric patients

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aquatic-Relief-Therapy/371079936335589 – fish tank on wheels!

http://www.monkeyinmychair.org/ – life size stuffed monkey to sit in (chronically ill patients) seat at school

http://www.projectsunshine.org/ – provide resources to children/families in hospitals

 

 

Conference:

Being able to choose sessions to go to and be surrounded by fellow CCLS¬†was so exciting. I learned a lot from the sessions I went to and the CLC even handed out jump drives with all of the powerpoints/handouts from all of the sessions so you don’t miss out on anything.¬†There were also many people at the CLC from around the world to participate in the international summit following the child life conference.

 

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Child life library

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Things have been so hectic this past week since coming back from conference! Luckily I had some time this morning to enjoy my coffee & take notes on my new book: “prescription for success: supporting children with autism spectrum disorder in the medical environment” by Jill Hudson. If time is kind to me, I hope to soon be able to write a review and let you all know how it is! Stay tuned, child life-ers!

Course Work Review —> Eligibility Assessment Service

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I’ve been having¬†a couple of Child Life students e-mail me asking about the¬†pre-practicum/internship process. Since the Child Life Council (CLC) is currently¬†restructuring this process, it can be a little confusing. Here’s what’s going on:

Up until April of this year, the process went like this: you submitted a “course work review” to the CLC¬†– a document listing 15 child-related courses you’ve taken, 10 of which need to be approved. They would then send¬†you back the¬†course work review document signed, dated, and (hopefully) approved. That would then¬†serve as your “golden ticket” to apply to practicums/internships.

However, the¬†CLC¬†is currently¬†changing the system and the “new version” of the course work review – the Eligibility Assessment Service – will not be available¬†until mid-july. This link goes more into detail about the switch & what the new version entails: {http://www.childlife.org/Certification/Getting%20Certified/CourseWorkReview.cfm}.

I love Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital!

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Spreads Cheer With Pharrell Williams’ Hit “Happy” ¬ę CBS Miami.

So proud to see these Child Life Specialists that taught me everything I know on the news! Click the link above to see the amazing work the Child Life team is doing at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.¬†¬†I’ll always have a soft spot for the hospital where I did my internship. Happy Child Life month!