Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Year 1 of Being a CCLS

When I first applied for Child Life Specialist positions, I was always asked that same question... "Why do you want to become a CCLS?" Not only did I hear this during interviews, but I heard it when I spoke to family members... all they wanted to know was why? What was my inspiration for becoming a CCLS? Well, since you're probably also wondering why, I'll tell you. I've always known that I wanted to work with children, I have such a strong passion for child development and psychology, that I never second guessed the age of the population I wanted to work with. A few years back, while I was in my sophomore/junior year of college, I was working as a teacher's aid in a preschool. While I loved it, I noticed that I would spend more time thinking about other ways that I could help children. Now I know teacher's are extremely important in a child's life, but I wanted to help children in a different aspect. I wanted to be that someone in their life, in a different environment. I researched for what felt like forever, for other occupations. I eventually changed my major from education to psychology, but that still didn't feel right. That's when I discovered child life. That's when I knew. I changed my major once more (three times is good luck right?) and I signed up to volunteer under the supervision of a CCLS in a children's hospital.

I quickly fell in love, not just with the profession, or with the feeling I left the hospital with, but with the smile on the children's faces, and their resilience shining so bright even when they weren't feeling their best. I eventually moved on to my internship, and that only made me more positive that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I make the hospital experience a little less traumatizing and frightening, and a little more therapeutic and fun. I prepare children for medical procedures using pictures, videos, dolls and simpler explanations, I educate them on a new diagnosis, I distract them during procedures, and I provide support for the family. There's also a playroom that helps the child just be exactly that... a child! Play is extremely important for any child, especially when they're in the hospital.

It took me a year after graduation to land a position as a CCLS. Some people say that's pretty good, and I have to agree. I had a year to focus on me, and figure out exactly where I wanted to work, and search high and low for jobs, all the while boosting my resume in any way I could. Turns out, I had two offers in two completely different settings - one in a children's hospital, and another in a medical day care center. Once I figured out what was going to work better for me financially, I attended orientation, and before I knew it I was a working CCLS.

Since then I have met hundreds of children, and families. I have guided them through their hospital experience in more ways than one, and I have learned more things in my first year than I ever thought possible. Each individual child is unique and different. What works for one child, may not work for another; what works for one family, may not work for the one down the hall. Sure I've had my fair share of failed interventions, but I've also had extremely rewarding moments - when a patient picks up on the guided imagery I am providing while they're getting their IV, and imagines they're on a beach, with the dolphins jumping in and out of the water, when a family calls for you specifically to help distract their child during a medical procedure, when you explain a diagnosis and you see the child understand - it's as if a lightbulb goes off in their head, when a child you've been working with, feels good enough to bust out dance moves in the playroom during Zumba, when a family finds out good news and they come back and visit to share, when a child calls your name down the hospital hallways and wants a hug. It's so much more rewarding than upsetting or depressing.













In my first few months there, I was rewarded by the nurse managers for going 'above and beyond,' as the months went by, I held a Child Life Refreshment Refresher for our nurses to make sure they understand what we do, I presented at our very own Child Life Conference, I started Movie Night Mondays, we've created a brochure so that more families know who we are, and I have networked with a great amount of professionals, just to name a few.

No one can quite understand why I do what I do, even after I explain it to them, but they haven't
walked the hallways of a pediatric unit... they don't understand how resilient these children are - they don't give up, and they're stronger than most people I know as an adult. I am a Child Life Specialist because these kids need me. Here's to another year as a CCLS!

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