Pause...the Impact of COVID-19

ACLP Bulletin | Summer 2020 | VOL. 38 NO. 3

Carissa Howard, MS, CCLS
Assistant Professor, M.S. in Child Life Program at Azusa Pacific University

Imagine being almost halfway through the most important training of your life thus far and having to press “pause.” Imagine being stuck in that state of pause, having no idea when things might return to “normal,” having to return home knowing that this current pause will add many more months of unexpected training at some point in the future. This is where our current students and interns are at. They have unexpectedly been told to pause their classes, plans, practicums, internships, anticipated certification exams, and dream careers. All this comes as a result of COVID-19 and our nation’s attempt to flatten the curve by staying home.

As a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) providing direct internship supervision, my heart aches for my current interns. My interns had just reached the half-way point in their internship and were covering our pediatric unit independently. They were excelling as soon-to-be specialists and greeted each day with excitement and anticipation of what new opportunities or experiences might be in store. My interns looked forward to taking the certification exam this summer and looking for their first “real jobs” as Certified Child Life Specialists. However, as a result of COVID-19, they have had to return home and are now doing virtual hours completing modules and various case studies. This is not at all what they had planned.

Like my interns, child life students across the nation have been forced to press pause on their anticipated trajectory. Whether they were a student in practicum or internship, they are all in the same boat now, no longer moving forward or finishing when they expected. They are stuck in a state of limbo between being a student and becoming a professional. So, what do we as professionals do to help and support our
students as we wait for the world to return to normal? How do we help our own families and friends, our colleagues and our communities as we wait?

Many of us are familiar with the saying “look for the helpers.” It originated from the mother of Mr. Fred Rogers. When he was a child and would see bad things in the world around him, his mother would encourage him to look for the helpers, look for the people who were making a difference and helping others instead of focusing on the bad thing that happened. 

When we think of “helpers” during this time of uncertainty, we often focus on the health care heroes, first responders, the grocery store workers, or the delivery drivers. But what would happen if we each found our own ways to become helpers in our community? 

Mother Theresa is famous for saying “do small things with great love.” What small things can we do to show love and support to the people and communities around us? We all have words of encouragement we can offer others, from chalk on the sidewalk or hospital grounds, to a letter in the mail or a quick message of hope or laughter via social media. If you know how to sew, join in making simple cloth face masks for your family, your neighbors, or a local hospital. If baking helps relieve stress for you, drop off treats on someone’s porch to let them know they are not alone. Call your local food bank or childcare center to see if they need help.

The reality of this whole situation, having to stay home and press pause on things, is that some of us now have extra time on our hands. This new found free time is a great opportunity for us to practice self-care or take up a new hobby, to learn a new skill or increase our knowledge of a specific population. Self-care might mean taking time to journal, read a new book, enjoy a nap, watch a new series, engage in exercise, spend time outside enjoying the sunshine, call your far away friends and family or come up with creative ways to connect with and support your friends and classmates, begin mentoring a student, or create new and innovative ways to help kids and their families with hospitalization. The sky is the limit!

The best thing we can all do is to continue to support and encourage one another. Take advantage of this pause and find small ways to encourage your coworkers, the students and interns in your life, your family, friends, and anyone else you might find in your circle of influence. Let them know that their feelings matter, that they are valued, and that they will get through this. Be available. Listen. Encourage. Support. Advocate.