Child Life Practicum

Our Philosophy

We are a program that is dedicated to developing creative and innovative approaches in supporting and advocating for children and families in an effort to minimize the psychological trauma of life threatening illnesses. Therapeutic play, education, preparation, and legacy building are instrumental in our daily goals to promote normal development, self expression, peer interaction, family centered care, a sense of mastery, and developed coping.

Practicum students are seen as helping us to fulfill this mission side by side while caring for our St. Jude patients. Our philosophy continues as intern-ready students leave our program and begin their own careers continuing to support children as experienced, knowledgeable, and confident professionals.

Our History

Child life was instituted at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1994 resulting from the research seen widely in the medical community of the benefits of children’s coping with stressful experiences through play. In 1998 developing a child life program became an institutional objective which included national managerial recruitment. Today, child life at St Jude Children's Research Hospital is an integral part of the medical team and is visible in every clinical arena from patient care to institutional program development. We currently have fifteen full time specialists and continue to grow.

Purpose of Practicum

Our child life program is committed to providing meaningful education and training for prospective child life professionals. The child life practicum is organized to give students the opportunity to gain insight and exposure to the child life profession and help students understand the unique needs of hospitalized children and their families. Beyond the goal of strengthening confidence with the hospital environment and building therapeutic play skills, the student has the unique opportunity to observe a child life specialist during a multitude of clinical interventions. These observed clinical interventions may include diagnostic teaching, surgical preparation, medical play, bereavement, and assessment. Education is offered congruent to observations through structured seminars, assignments, and readings.

It is our belief that previewing a variety of clinical skills in addition to prerequisite traditional hospital volunteering fully prepares a determined student for a child life internship and truly highlights a child life specialist’s multifaceted role.


The St. Jude child life practicum will take place over eight weeks (June-July) totaling 100 hours.

Each practicum week will consist of 3 four hour days. The student may choose the 3 days for clinical instruction (M-F) which will be coordinated following acceptance. However, there is one required time the student must report to the hospital: Tuesdays from 8:00-9:30 a.m. for a seminar & wrap up session with coordinator.


To be considered for the practicum, please submit the following:

Deadline Dates

We will comply with the Child Life Council (CLC) recommendations. All application components must be postmarked by January 5. Application materials will be reviewed by the practicum committee and students will be notified of missing components by mail. The most qualified applicants will be offered an opportunity to interview by phone with the committee. Placement offers will be given to two students by February 12.

Contact Us

Please call or email additional questions.

Responses to inquiries will be made on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Clare Gardner, CCLS
Child life Internship Coordinator