Corinne Joplin, CCLS, always knew she wanted to work with children. At a certain point, she also knew she wanted to work in healthcare and considered the obvious choices—becoming a pediatric nurse or doctor. In college, a classmate, who was part of a networking group for students interested in working with children and families, told Corinne about child life. This previously unknown profession seemed a “perfect meshing of two worlds,” and after completing a practicum and internship, Corinne knew she had found her calling.
After struggling to find her first job, Corinne took over a maternity-leave position in pediatrics at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital at the University of Missouri. A full-time position was eventually created for her, and she’s been at the hospital for the past eight-and-half years, covering the pediatric floor and ICU. Corinne values the opportunity to build relationships with families she sees on regular basis—often those with diagnoses such as cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and chronic respiratory conditions.
Corinne connects with patients and families by expressing genuine interest in their hobbies and honoring their unique wishes. An eight-year-old girl diagnosed with cancer requested something special at her end of chemo party: to smash a pie in Corinne’s face. Corinne granted the wish (she doesn’t recommend the experience!), and the girl continues to stop by and visit Corinne when she comes to the hospital for scans.
Another memorable patient was a teenage girl who was in the hospital for several months for treatment for Crohn’s disease. When the girl confided that she was upset she had missed her prom, Corinne knew she had to help. In true child life form, Corinne took her wish as a command. Creating a prom while still performing her other child life responsibilities was a challenge, but one that Corinne accepted with enthusiasm. Her patient requested an 80s-themed prom, and Corinne had coincidentally had an 80s-themed wedding from which to draw inspiration and decor. The prom was a collaborative effort among the healthcare team. A physical therapist offered the use of the gym; the music therapist was the DJ; the kitchen staff made 80s-themed treats; and the patient’s surgeon was the prom king. The patient was the prom queen, of course, and she had a fabulous time celebrating and dancing with the healthcare team that had cared for her for several months.
Corinne’s genuine connection to families and excellent memory for personal details led to her receiving an award from the Missouri Hospital Association. A family that Corinne had worked with early in her career, when their son needed a kidney transplant, returned many years later when their daughter also needed a kidney transplant. When Corinne greeted them, she remembered their names and interests and made each family member feel seen as an individual as opposed to a number or diagnosis. Corinne’s thoughtfulness left an impression on the family, who nominated her for the Hospital Hero Award. Her proud child life team surprised her with a celebration in the play room, and the hospital association featured her in a video celebrating her exceptional service to children and families.
According to Corinne's supervisor, the child life profession "takes true compassion and connection with patients, families and staff, and Corinne exemplifies these qualities every day. She knows the little things you do for patients and families can make the biggest impact."
Congratulations on your well-deserved recognition, Corinne!
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