Tips for students

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It’s important to show potential employers that while you may still be learning to walk the walk, you can certainly talk the talk! Child life comes with a special set of vocabulary words that every CCLS uses in their day to day work. This not only will make you sound more professional overall, but it will show your interviewer you’re dedicated to the field of child life. Read over the ACLP website and jot down some child life vocabulary words that you can use in your next interview. Here are a couple to get you started:

  • Coping skills
  • Assessment
  • Psychosocial support
  • Psychosocial stressors
  • Psychosocial needs
  • Developmentally appropriate
  • Age appropriate
  • Address fears
  • Interventions
  • Normalization
  • Compliance
  • Build rapport
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Impact of hospitalization
  • Recreational activities

Can you think of any other child life vocab words?

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Favorite Find of the Month

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I first learned about the child life profession when one of my child development professors my junior year of college very briefly mentioned it during one of his lectures. I jotted down “child life specialist” on the corner of my notebook and googled it when I got home. As soon as I looked it up, I knew this was it! I read every single word written on the entire child life council website but I still wanted more! I wanted to know what a typical day looked like for a CLS, I wanted to see pictures of their workspace, I wanted as much information as I could get to feel confident in my decision to pursue this career. I didn’t find what I was looking for that day so I started adventures in child life in hopes of providing others with what I was looking for at the start of my adventure. 

It’s no secret that becoming a certified child life specialist is a lot of work! And how can you be sure that you’re ready to do all that it takes to become a child life specialist when you’ve never even seen what the job entails first hand? I get a lot of e-mails from people interested in the field asking me how they can be sure child life is for them before they dive in. I often asked myself this question too during the early stages of my adventure. I realized that child life was for me by truly understanding what the job entailed and see the magic first hand during my time volunteering, my practicum, my internship, and even during as a professional. This brings me to my favorite find of the month:

 

John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida will be hosting a seminar for those interested in learning more about the child life profession. This seminar will include a panel discussion with child life staff, information about education options & certification requirements, a hospital tour, and exposure to therapeutic activities. There are two seminars left this year – one will take place on July 27th and the other on November 16th. Space is limited to 25 participants per seminar so make sure and register online ASAP!

To see the flyer for the event, click here https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/getmedia/792ad66a-178e-43b5-9116-8ccb6f983e9c/DayInTheLife

How to Stand Out in the Child Life World

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I often receive e-mails from Child Life students asking what I would recommend to make their application POP when up against others applying for a practicum/internship. This is a very valid question as you can imagine everyone your up against for the position also “loves kids” & is “very creative”. So, what are some things that you can add to your resume to stand out?

  • Experience with Kids
    We know you love kids (its a requirement for the job!), but show your program just how much. Hospitalized kids, kids in summer camps, babysitting, kids with special needs, tutoring, etc. By showing that you’ve worked with kids in a variety of settings you appear well rounded & it’s clear that you enjoy spending your time being around kids! Below are some of my favorite organizations that often are in need of volunteers:

  • Be Involved with the Child Life Council
    Becoming a member of the CLC will not only open a world of resources and information for you, but it will also show prospective hospitals that you’re serious about becoming a CCLS. Want to show them that you’re super serious about becoming a CCLS? Attend the Child Life Conference! Attending conference not only give you an opportunity to network, learn, and have fun in a new city, but it also looks very impressive on a resume. This shows interviewer that you’re passionate about Child Life, that you’re willing to learn about Child Life, and that you’ll be dedicated during your internship. Want to know more about what conference is like? Check out my post from the CLC conference 2014: https://adventuresinchildlife.com/2014/06/10/child-life-conference-recap/

  • Start a Blog
    Starting my blog was one of the best decisions I made in my journey to becoming a CCLS. Writing this blog gave me a reason to do research about the job, made me become aware of news and advancements happening in the field, network with other aspiring child life specialists, and now as a professional I use my blog as a portfolio of my work! Blogging about something shows that you’re truly interested in the topic and that you genuinely enjoy it. If you do decide to start a blog, let me know and I’ll give you a shout out! 🙂
  • Recognize your Special Talents
    There may be many special talents that you have that you don’t even consider special. Try and see things from a CCLS point of view and what they experience on a daily basis; do you have any skills that can relate?

    • Great at public speaking? As a CCLS you’re often times asked to provide in-services for members of the multidisciplinary team. It’s GREAT if you don’t faint at just the thought of speaking in front of a crowd.
    • Worked in retail during the dreadfully busy holiday season? Multitasking at a high-stress fast-paced job while having to maintain focus on customer service as well as the task at hand sounds a lot like Child Life to me!
    • Speak another language? Having grown up speaking Spanish myself, I never thought this would be something I’d mention during an interview – it’s no big deal, especially here in Miami where everyone speaks Spanish. This is an invaluable skill when working in healthcare (or anywhere, really!) and you should definitely brag about it.
    • Worked as a waitress/waiter or telemarketer during college? People skills are everything for Child Life. You need to know how to talk to children, yes, but you also need to know how to speak to their scared, angry, nervous, tearful parents.
  • Take Pictures
    It’s great to hear about how creative a candidate says she/he is, but it’s even better to see it! Take pictures (while abiding to HIPPA regulations) of the work you’ve done with children, medical play activities you’ve created, art work patient’s have made for you, etc. This will really make you stand out from other candidates.
  • Remember
    During your experiences volunteering or during your practicum, keep a journal of special moments that you witnessed the CCLS have with a child or that you yourself had with a child! Before an interview I always like to go over my personal journal where I’ve jotted down special moments I’ve had with patients and their families. This is a great “refresher” for when interviewers ask those great “Tell me about a time when you…” questions.

    • Trust me, if you don’t refresh on your experiences before an interview you’ll sit there trying to think of a special moment you had with a patient but all you’ll be able to think about is how much time you’ve been trying to think and how quiet everyone is & then you won’t even remember ever seeing a child before! Very awkward and a sure way to make you feel you “failed” the interview but it happens to the best of us!
    • If keeping a journal isn’t your thing, then when preparing for an interview make sure and just take some time to recall on those experiences & jot a few down. This way they’re fresh in your memory & you can think without eyes staring at you.
  • Research
    Now this point I’m only adding because I am 4 courses away from getting my masters degree so research has become my middle name. I now enjoy reading research articles for fun! (who am I?)  – All jokes aside, you really do learn a lot from reading research articles. Search articles about Child Life, pediatrics, distraction, siblings of hospitalized children, children’s perceptions of death, etc. Having this knowledge in your back pocket will really blow your interviewers away when you reply to a question with “Well, I actually read a research article about that which suggested…”
  • School
    If you’re still in school, tailor your classes as much as possible to Child Life (for those of you like me, whose university does not have a Child Life major). Take classes like medical terminology, children with special needs, a survey of developmental disabilities, death and dying, psychology, ethics, hospital management, etc. Different universities offer a wide range of courses so when picking classes always keep an eye out for those course descriptions that relate to Child Life and/or the hospital setting in general. My favorite elective was “childhood around the world”!
  • Be Creative
    Being creative is something all child life specialists claim to be but no two are the same. Show your creativity when applying for your position whether it’s decorating your application folder with washi tape or including an extra letter of recommendation from a child you know. After sorting through mountains of manila envelope applications, finding creativity in one will definitely set you apart. DISCLAIMER: don’t get too carried away with creativity; you are still applying for a professional role so shoving confetti into your application might be too much. Ask a trusted friend or parent for advice if you’re not sure! 

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

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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 – who 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

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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

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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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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}.

Interview Help

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After many interviews for a practicum and an internship I’ve been able to collect quite a few interview questions. Here are some that have stood out to me:

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1. This is a common question in any interview. Pointing out your weaknesses is not a fun and easy thing to do, so I feel that it’s important to have thought these questions through prior to the interview so that you have strong answers.

2. I’ve heard this question in more than one occasion. You’re going to want to talk about past experiences with children and I feel that this question is a great window into being able to bring up some of those experiences.

3. A big part of my practicum was dedicated to developing our elevator speech (how you would describe child life to someone of they asked you in an elevator.) It’s good to have your elevator speech thought out and ready to go for interviews, yes, but also for yourself!

4. This question caught me off guard when I was first asked. It’s easy to get caught up with studying theorists, child development, and scenarios and while yes, that’s all extremely important, interviewers want to know about you as a person too!

5. Everyone’s goal for an internship or practicum (should) be to learn more about the career and gain enough experience to move on to the next step. Take some time before your interviews and create a list of goals you have that will set you apart from the obvious.