Child Life course offers students first glimpse of the profession

Photo of Jennifer Smith, left, with two students

St. Jude Child Life Specialist Jennifer Smith, left, works with students during a Child Life 101 course. Students interested in child life can attend the class to learn more about the profession and get a realistic view of specialists’ roles in the hospital.

Twice a year St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital hosts the Child Life 101 course for students who are interested in entering the Child Life profession. Prospective Child Life specialists come to St. Jude from across the country to learn more about our work and to get a realistic view of our roles in the hospital setting.

In the past decade, we’ve seen an increase in students who are interested in entering the field. As a result, St. Jude was one of the first institutions in the country to host an introductory level Child Life course. This was important to us because we felt like students were not always getting the information that they needed before entering the field.

St. Jude collaborates with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis for the half-day educational sessions, which are designed for current Child Life students, future Child Life students and prospective interns.

The course has evolved over the years to become more interactive. Sessions with our Child Life specialists focus on therapeutic, developmental and medical play; diagnostic education and preparation; supportive interventions; and interactive tables.

Students watch videos of Child Life specialists in action to get a better idea of our day-to-day work. They see what our journeys have been like and learn about our backgrounds to see if this career is something they want to continue pursuing.

In the afternoon, students learn about internships. Many of the questions revolve around how to get into the popular and competitive field of Child Life. They also ask about changes in the field—all Child Life specialists will be required to have master’s degrees by 2022 in child life or a master’s degree with a concentration in child life.

Our Child Life team closes the event with a panel discussion where they share their experiences and answer questions. The attendees may arrive at St. Jude not knowing exactly what all is involved in Child Life, but they certainly have a good idea by the time they leave. It’s fun to see the light bulbs go on inside their heads.

Our team members love taking part in this course and growing the next generation of Child Life specialists. They want to get the correct information out by steering students in the right direction and preparing the next generation the right way.

The next Child Life 101 event will be held in November. Read more about the event.

About the author

Shawna Grissom is the director of the Child Life Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
More Articles From Shawna Grissom

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