The Impact of Covid-19
When the pandemic hit, learning experiences in the healthcare setting halted in many ways. Not only were child life students impacted, but students across the healthcare field. This global pandemic set back many child life students in their certification process.
Before the pandemic, many hospitals had child life volunteer programs, shadowing experiences, and practicums that allowed students to gain experience before applying for an internship. In a time of need, some places pivoted to virtual experiences allowing students to gain valuable skills working with children and families in a virtual space.
Watching the child life world pivot was amazing. The amount of amazing experience that came out of it is going to continue to help students all over the country to gain valuable child life knowledge and skills and I commend the programs that pivoted quickly to accommodate families and students.
Why is healthcare experience important?
All that being said, there is no replacement for experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the hospital. I vividly remember my first time as a child life volunteer. I was excited but terrified to knock on the door of the patients and families. Personally, I knew privacy was a huge challenge for families, but I also knew I was going to be able to be the one person to come in and provide something fun and comforting for the family.
Through bedside play, normative play in the playroom, cleaning toys, and interacting with the nursing staff I learned so much! I learned that I love the community of a hospital, of feeling like we are all in it together. I learned that the sight of IV bags, bandages, and seeing children in this setting was something I not only could handle, but enjoyed.
Admittedly, I had never been in a hospital setting outside of one shadow experience in my undergrad. This experience gave me the confidence to apply for a practicum, and the practicum set me up for success as an intern. You have to experience the blood, vomit, and incessant beeps to know that you can thrive in this setting in the future.
Options for gaining healthcare experience
I know it has been challenging for students at this time to gain experience, but I truly believe you need some sort of in-hospital experience before applying for an internship. This is mainly for your own success. But, this doesn’t have to be a child life volunteer position, there are other ways to gain this experience!
- Volunteer at your local hospital in the mother/baby/ labor & delivery unit
- Work as a patient advocate or receptionist in a pediatric clinic or hospital
- Work as a patient technician in a healthcare setting
- Some medical camps have in-hospital programming throughout the year that require volunteers, students, or employees to run
- Work as an infant hearing screener
Above are just a few examples of volunteer and paid work experience that can allow you access to a healthcare setting and interaction with patients and families. Working with hundreds of students over the past several years has shown me that there are so many different possibilities out there. With a little creativity, you can find the experiences that you need to be successful as a child life specialist.
- You really need to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the hospital before your internship
- There are so many ways other than being a child life volunteer that will help you gain the experience you need to succeed