Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I'm a Child Life Specialist

Part of the reason I stopped writing was because life just got too busy. I graduated May of 2012 and since then had been applying to every hospital in a 1-2 hour driving range. I was determined to get a job doing something with the degree I had graduated with, and the certificate I had earned. It was until May of 2013 when I finally received the phone call that I had been waiting for. I was offered a job at an incredible children's hospital as their new CCLS, or Certified Child Life Specialist, on the pediatric floor. I was beyond excited to have gotten my dream job. Prior to graduation though, I hadn't even known that this was my dream. I was getting my degree to teach, until I realized I didn't want to be a teacher anymore, I wanted to help children in more ways than a teacher. I wanted to use psychology more often than the curriculum. So I began searching online for other careers, and that's when I made the switch to psychology, and then eventually child life. While my boyfriend made fun of me for constantly changing majors and being as indecisive with this as I am when it comes to picking out what I want for dinner. It becomes real though when you're in college, and you need to make sure you're getting the most out of your time there, doing something you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

Becoming a child life specialist wasn't easy - I had to volunteer, complete specific courses, and then complete an internship. After graduating, I learned that getting a job wouldn't be any easier either, but I was determined, and when I'm determined, nothing and no one can stop me. I went into each interview with confidence and my knowledge and experience to back me up. I wasn't worried when I went on interviews and didn't get calls back though, because I knew those jobs hadn't been meant for me then. I was content and persevered. Meanwhile, I focused on my health and fitness, which only made me that much more confident when I headed in for interviews.

When I finally did get that call I was ecstatic and knew that all of my hard work had finally paid off. Here I am two months later, and I still go into work with a smile on my face every day. Of course, I come across challenging days, but I work past them with the support of my incredible coworkers and my family, boyfriend, and friends. The only constant challenge I've come across almost every day is explaining what is is that I do. Child life is not a widely known profession, as there are only, roughly, 5,000 of us out there right now. We can be found in hospitals, mainly, but we've also found our way into dentist and doctor's  offices, funeral homes, and even military hospitals, just to name a few. We are there to help children understand what's happening to them or those around them in a developmentally appropriate way. Specifically for me in the hospital, I make sure the hospital is a more child-friendly environment, with the help of education, therapeutic interventions, and, of course, play. I provide normalizing activities for children in the playroom, educate them about their diagnosis or an upcoming procedure, and distract them during those medical procedures. I am also there to listen to the families of the patient's and provide them with some type of comfort. I'm always learning new ways to help children, but I've learned that even if a child cries, it's OKAY. It doesn't mean that my intervention didn't help, it just means that the child is expressing him/herself in a more than appropriate way. Children are scared when they enter the hospital, I'm there to make it a little less frightening.

Once I tell people that, they always look sad, and ask me how I deal with working with sick children all the time... but I promise you it's so much more rewarding, and honestly, you can't even tell some of these kids are sick, especially when they see the playroom! They're just kids when I look at them, just kids that want to play.

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