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Child Life Practicum

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 19 full time specialists and continue to grow.


The St. Jude Child Life Practicum is four weeks and totals 120 hours. There will be two sessions offered each summer; one in June and one in July. There will be two openings for each session.

Each practicum week will consist of five days including some full and partial day commitments. In addition to clinical rotations, there will be weekly wrap up sessions with the coordinator, educational seminars, opportunities to facilitate expressive groups, as well as interactive simulation opportunities.

Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 in the coming year, upcoming sessions may be subject to change.


To be considered for the practicum, please submit the following application packet:
*Please note requirements have been adjusted to reflect possible impacts of COVID-19 on applicants

  • Application form with 3-4 included essay questions
  • Verification of any Child Life volunteers hours with children in a hospital if applicable (number of hours completed by application deadline)
  • Currently enrolled in at least their sophomore year of college in a related field with applicable course work (graduated students are also eligible)
  • Minimum of a 3.5 GPA both cumulative and in major
  • Transcripts from all colleges attended (unofficial copies acceptable)
  • recommendation forms: One filled out by child life specialist volunteer supervisor (if applicable) or any direct observer of your interactions with children outside of the hospital, and the other by a professor
  • Resume
  • Work or volunteer experience with healthy children outside a hospital setting documented on application or resume (no minimum time requirement)

Please send completed application packets to:

Child Life Department
Attention: Practicum Committee
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
MS 121, Room BP300
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105-3678 USA
Phone: (901) 595-3020
Fax: (901) 595-2690

*Letters of recommendation and recommendation forms can either be submitted in a signed/sealed envelope within the student application packet, emailed directly to the practicum coordinator, or submitted by mail directly to the address listed for practicum application materials.