August 28, 2023

[For Students] Behind the Scenes: What Student Programming Looks Like for the CCLS

One of the inherent challenges I remember when I was a student myself is that the process felt all-consuming. Other students tell me this, too. You eat, sleep, and breathe child life during application season. It’s hard to think that other people are just going about their daily lives while the future of your career […]

One of the inherent challenges I remember when I was a student myself is that the process felt all-consuming. Other students tell me this, too. You eat, sleep, and breathe child life during application season. It’s hard to think that other people are just going about their daily lives while the future of your career hangs in the balance! (Ok, maybe a little extreme but that’s how it feels for some people!)

One of the things that helped bring some perspective for me and gave me that “aha” moment was when I was finally a child life specialist myself.

If you have had an in-hospital practicum or volunteer experience, you may have seen a glimpse of what this looks like, but if not, you may have no clue what all goes into the student programming aspect of the child life role which is usually a very small percentage of their overall job description (if it is even listed at all!). 

Let’s imagine for a second that you are a CCLS (yay!) and you have been certified long enough to have your own intern. Let’s look at a hypothetical (yet, realistic) scenario.

Here’s how the year might look for you, CCLS!

Picture this, you are an ED CCLS and also the internship co-supervisor.

January 5th- Applications are due! Time to get to work reviewing them. Never mind the hours of calls and return emails you’ve sent answering student questions and getting your hospital’s marketing team to put the right information on the website before this date even approaches.

For hypothetical purposes, let’s just say each application takes you 30 minutes to review and you are sharing the load with a couple of other CCLS on your team. We estimate that you have 20 applications to read through, which equates to 10 hours of time. 

Since you’re working in the ED for a 12-hour shift, you are in the hospital 3 days a week and your goal is to get all applications reviewed in two weeks. This leads us to need about 2 hours per shift dedicated just to application reviews, lofty but potentially doable.

Great job, CCLS! January 19th rolls around and you have met your deadline!

Time to schedule interviews. Let’s say each applicant that you interview takes 1 hour of your time (prep the questions, print relevant information, schedule times with the student and interviewers, conduct the interview, discuss with the team.

Your team has decided to interview 10 students. 

This means you need to carve out 10 more non-clinical hours in the next two weeks… Let’s just go ahead and estimate that we’ll need three weeks to get the interviews scheduled and completed.

February 9th. 

Time to schedule an internal meeting to go over the student interviews and determine if you need to continue interviewing or if you have a few top candidates. 

Give it another two weeks to get all staff members to this meeting (remember, you only work 3 days a week!).

Ok, it’s February 23rd and your team has determined whom to offer the internship to.

Time to send out rejection emails and respond to those who ask for feedback. This is another several hours of work to find the application, determine what feedback to provide, and send it back. 

March 1st is here! 

You know what that means? Child Life Month! Don’t forget to educate your interdisciplinary team, take care of yourself, and still see patients (your #1 priority in many hospitals). 

Phew, April is here. 

Back to a little bit of normalcy. But wait, you have an intern starting at the end of May! Time to prepare. 

You spend time meeting with previous supervisors, getting their space ready, and familiarizing yourself with the student handbook and manual. 

The end of May rolls around and it’s time for your intern to start.

Don’t forget though, the student you just offered to will begin in August. So, even if they aren’t your student for August the application cycle begins again in September. 

For teams that are smaller and don’t have a coordinator, this is a very real scenario. Child life specialists are constantly taught to prioritize their work day. Patients, charting, hospital committees, and student programming are all a part of the day. You can see how student programming could get easily moved down the list as the day goes on. 

This is a long-winded way of saying…having a perspective of what the child life team is doing to manage internships requires extending some grace to them, too. Just like you, everyone is trying to do their best. Sometimes they miss an email, don’t have the time to pull out your application and provide personalized feedback, and sometimes, yes, teams aren’t even able to control when and how their website is updated (that’s a whole separate blog post…). 

Child life programs want students, but it’s not as simple as just saying, “yes” and requires so much support from an entire child life team and hospital. 

My piece of advice is to proceed with a spirit of grace, an attitude of respect, and an eagerness to learn. Practicing patience is not easy, and we know you want this so badly. We want it for you, too.


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