Q. What inspired you to be a child life specialist?
A. Passion for working with children and families in the context of healthcare.
Q. What is most satisfying about working with child life students?
A. Seeing each student grow and develop in their knowledge and skill in becoming competent child life professionals.
Q. What are some challenges when working with child life students?
A. Hoping I meet their individual learning needs.
Q. What are you most proud of about your internships/academic program?
A. Our child life program was the first academic program and our graduate child life program was the first to be endorsed by the ACLP.
Q. What wisdom would you share with other child life professionals interested in the education & training of child life students?
A. I do not feel I am qualified to share any wisdom.
Q. What is your go-to method of self-care?
A. Early on in my clinical child life career, I worked with a psychiatrist who met with child life and social work weekly for additional clinical supervision. From this I learned the importance of seeking out therapy. For over 35 years I continue to meet with a therapist to discuss the many challenges in both child life clinical and academic work. I believe this has greatly assisted me in maintaining balance in my life.
Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?
A. I would love to learn how to fly an airplane.
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A. I learned about child life specialists while stranded in an airport in Chicago in 1995. At the time, I was studying psychology and child development. I already knew I wanted to help children and families cope with medical experiences, I just didn't know if that was even a career. Learning about child life encouraged me to continue to pursue my passion.
A. I believe the most satisfying thing about working with students is having a front row seat to see them grow and develop in their skill set and confidence. I love cheering them on as they work through professional and clinical challenges. The moment when an intern says, "I feel like I just became a child life specialist," is the highlight of the semester.
A. A challenge working with students is identifying their unique learning needs. We strive to offer student experiences rooted in adult learning principles while meeting the individual learning preferences of students. Making these adjustments in the midst of a rotation can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth the effort and energy. Another challenge is managing multiple semesters at once, especially in the spring. I tease that I live in three semesters at once: spring students are here, I am on-boarding summer students, and interviewing for the fall semester.
A. I am most proud that the entire child life department takes ownership of the student programs at Cook Children's. While we have a Student Leadership Team and a wonderful pool of child life student rotation supervisors. However, all of the child life staff (department leadership, child life specialists and activity coordinators) contribute to student discussion groups, learning activities, and module in-services. Students have reported that they are able to hear from a variety of child life perspectives and experiences thanks to this structure.
A. It's important to think about the lasting impact of your student program. Not only will the students receiving education and training within your program become child life specialists and impact the lives of many patients and families, consider the impact beyond that. In the future, interns of today will be supervising child life practicum and internship students. They may also go on to become a student program coordinator or department leader. Throughout their child life career, they could influence the field as a whole on a national level. The students you train this semester are future ACLP committee volunteers, Board members, and award winners. Acknowledging the influence we have in the professional lives of students is important and far-reaching. I think it's important to create and maintain student programs that develop well-rounded child life specialists.
A. I need to find some quiet time when taking care of myself. I read a good book and rest to help myself recharge.
Q. What would surprise your peers to know about you?
A. It would surprise people to know how introverted I truly am. I claim to be an extroverted introvert. I can be extroverted as long as I need to, but I prefer time alone whenever possible.
A. As an undergraduate child psychology student at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development, I developed a passion for working with children as well as a strong interest in the research of how hospitalization can impact a child’s development. I’m grateful to one of my professors, who encouraged me to meet with a child life specialist and pursue a master’s degree.
A. I find teaching to be a humbling experience. As I guide my students through the curriculum, I witness their growth as they progress towards learning mastery. This both challenges and inspires me to continue my own growth as a learner and expand my content knowledge. The path towards certification isn’t always easy, however my students never cease to amaze me. They are focused, driven and committed to the profession and to helping children and families.
A. Due to the unique nature of an online learning environment, fostering a sense of community among students can at times be difficult. But we’ve made it a priority to build a curriculum and program structure that incorporates peer learning. This helps with the online aspect of the program, but is also an important skill to have in our work. In child life practice, we recognize the importance of collaboration with others to achieve our collective goals.
A. Our academic program is affiliated with the #1 developmental psychology program in the nation. This means that our students have access to world-class faculty and are drawing on the latest research in child development as they prepare for child life practice. Students also learn alongside other healthcare students at the University of Minnesota through inter-professional education coursework.
A. Having a variety of work experiences enriches the curriculum and guides your teaching. I would also encourage child life professionals to seek mentors who have experience in the education and training of students. These mentors should not be limited to only child life professionals, but also other healthcare professionals across different disciplines and settings.
A. As a working mother, I do my best to start my mornings before the kids wake up (with coffee of course!) and take a few moments alone to pause and reflect on the day ahead. This has helped me become more intentional in how I approach my day and keeps the mornings a bit more calm in my busy house.
A. I enjoy adventurous activities when traveling. For example, I have been skydiving, swimming with stingrays, and hiking on a glacier in Iceland. I also enjoy cooking (not baking), puzzling, and Friday family dance parties.
A. My advisor at Colorado State University really encouraged me to consider child life. I was afraid of the emotional components of the work but decided to give it a shot. At that time, as was the norm in "those days", I simply made a call to Children's Hospital Oakland and they agreed to take me on as a student. I started a few weeks later and have never looked back. The mentorship provided to me by Susan Marchant and the team there has lasted my entire career!
A. I feel deeply honored to have students around me every day reminding me of all the incredible things that child life specialists do to help support our patients and families. Their passion inspires me and keeps me on my toes.
A. In the academic role of adjunct instructor at Colorado State University it is challenging to find creative ways to teach the deeply emotional and experiential role of the child life specialist in today's online world. It has taken some out of the box thinking to develop tools, techniques, and assessments that incorporate technology in ways that benefit my students learning process.
In my role as internship coordinator at CHCO I find the lack of opportunities for students to be really tough. There are so many challenges to pursuing the field and becoming certified and I always wonder how many high quality students are getting turned away due to lack of placements.
A. At CSU I am proud of the fact that despite changing tides we are continuing to offer coursework that allows students to meet the current ACLP requirements for certification. I am aware that the requirements will continue to change, and that the course requirements will become stricter, but today we teach a strong class on child life that jams a great deal of learning into a short amount of time for future professionals. I also love that many people in other medical fields take the class, as I believe deeply in teaching all medical professionals of the importance of the theories and practice that shape our care for patients and families.
At CHCO I am deeply proud of becoming an ACLP Accredited Internship site! It has set us up in a really lovely way to keep focusing on program development, and program expansion because our foundation is so solid. I highly recommend accreditation to all programs as it really allows the development of clear and thoughtful processes.
A. I think it is an honor to get to help develop and shape emerging professionals, and I believe it is also a professional responsibility to give back to the field I love so much.
A. I love family time, preferably outside, and with a little adventure thrown in there.
A. As a former outdoor educator, I have gone 43 days without a shower! I was on the ocean and in the water daily for the second half of those days, but the first half was in the Sierra San Pedro Martir in Baja California, and there was not a lot of flowing water for cleaning myself.