Accepted!

Well, child life internship offer day was the other day, and I’m so happy to announce that I accepted an internship at Goryeb Children’s Hospital! I cannot be more excited to start my last step before the real world in child life!

This is the same hospital that I completed my volunteer hours at so I’m very lucky because I already feel comfortable there and I know all of the child life specialists from working with them last summer. I am so excited to learn even more from them and apply all of my child life skills I have been learning from my practicum!

I’ve already been thinking of what site visits I want to do, and some project ideas, but if you guys have any ideas, feel free to send them my way! June cannot come soon enough! 🙂

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Finding My Passion

Cancer is something that I would never wish upon anyone, especially a child. It is taboo, a horrible illness, an unfavorable diagnosis, yet, in most cases, we are all affected by it. Maybe you’ve had a parent, sibling, grandparent, or aunt or uncle who has or had cancer, maybe a cousin or a friend, a friend’s mom or sibling, or a strong little patient fighting for their life. I’ve been affected by cancer many times in my family and my friends, which is very unfortunate. But, it has taught me a very important lesson: that humans are resilient, and they are fighters.

Today during my practicum, my rotation was in the oncology unit. When I was volunteering, I had a lot of interaction with oncology patients and experience through being involved in THON, so it’s something I’m comfortable with. Which sounds so weird. Why should anyone be comfortable with cancer? It’s not so much that I’m comfortable, but that I feel a calling to help. I feel that with my experience, I have the opportunity to offer so much to oncology patients. I want to help in any way I can as a Child Life Specialist. Yes, it will be difficult, but I have a connection to these patients and the duty to provide them with anything they may need to normalize their experience.

Don’t get me wrong, cancer is difficult. In the oncology unit today, I encountered families that have opted to keep their child sheltered from the information about their treatment. Sometimes not even being aware that they have cancer. I met patients undergoing palliative care where legacy making was organized by Child Life. And, I met patients who were fighting like champions, making their little personalities shine through to show everyone that cancer wouldn’t bring them down. They were fighting, and they were doing it with smiles on their faces.

I learned a lot today, and I was humbled by the experience. These children give me inspiration. They give me the inspiration that I can be a better person. Anything that I am going through cannot even be compared to everything they’ve endured in their life, and I am amazed by the strength, resilience, and life these children have. I learned that there is hope, because many types of cancer treatments have incredible success rates. I learned today that cancer affects people in different ways, and it is one of the most difficult things a family can go through. And I learned that I want to support them, I want to offer anything I can to help them through this trying time in their lives. And I want to help these children win their fight.

It may seem out of the ordinary, but I feel that I am needed in an oncology unit, and I would consider myself so lucky if I am given the opportunity to work with these amazing patients in my future work as a Child Life Specialist.

I am officially inspired.

The RA Life

I was an RA at Penn State during my junior and senior years. My junior year I was the RA for a floor of 40 first year girls, and my senior year I had 40 upperclassman girls. The experiences I had with my residents honestly made my college career, and I think being an RA has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life so far. I have built such amazing relationships with my girls that I will always cherish, and I learned so much about being a leader, a role model, and a friend.

Being an RA also helped me become more creative. I have always been a pretty creative person, always loving crafts and such, but being an RA basically forces you to break out your craftinista side. For the last three years, I planned weekly events and made bulletin boards that my residents participated in. Most of my events had an educational theme, anywhere from alcohol awareness to self-esteem, and all of my bulletin boards were interactive!

I think this aspect of being an RA has definitely prepared me for being a Child Life Specialist! During my time volunteering, I used my bulletin board skills and made a summer safety board in the lobby of the children’s hospital. I’ll always use my planning skills to plan events for my patients and other activities. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of making bulletin boards!

If you’re still in college, consider being an RA! You can really learn so much that can help you in the Child Life career, and really any career! The transferable skills are endless!

Here are some of my bulletin boards 🙂

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Taking Chances in the Big Apple

I mentioned in my About Me that I have a practicum at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. I am really excited about this, and I have been learning so many great things about Child Life. If you don’t know yet, a practicum is an observational experience in Child Life where you get to shadow a Child Life Specialist and gain some really great Child Life skills to have under your belt before your internship! And from what I’ve read on other blogs, Child Life internship applications look a lot better when you have practicum experience because it helps you stand out, so why not!

I’ve been having a lot of fun with my practicum, but the only downfall is that it is in New York City. Now, I’m from New Jersey so I’ve been to the city before, but it has never been my cup of tea. I’m more of a suburban girl than a city girl, not really into the fast paced life style. But, we all know that any positions in Child Life are so competitive that if you get one, you just take it! Heck, some girls even move across the country for their internships because of the competitive nature! So, I was offered the position, and I took it!

Commuting to the city is a completely different world, but it’s a new experience, for great Child Life experience! The great thing about being at such a large hospital is that their Child Life program is HUGE! They have about 20 Child Life Specialists, along with a music therapist, art therapist, social workers, and other members of the creative arts team. It’s just amazing learning from these amazing women!

So advice here: even if you’re a little scared of a different city for a practicum or internship… TAKE THE CHANCE! You never know what good will come out of it, or when an opportunity like this will come along again. So, embrace the experience and make the best out of it, because it’s all for your Child Life Journey!

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Time To Volunteer!

So, you found out about Child Life, but what’s next?

Well, the first thing you’re going to want to do besides getting your degree and meeting your coursework requirements, is volunteer in a Child Life Department! Look into the local hospitals near your home or school to see if they have Child Life Programs, and then contact their volunteer department to get started! Most practicums and internships require you to have at least 75 to 100 volunteer hours within a Child Life Program, so there’s no use waiting! I completed my volunteer hours at a hospital near my house during the summer because there weren’t any hospitals near Penn State that had Child Life Programs. But hey, you could get lucky if your school has a hospital near by and get even more hours completed during the school year! Doing even 3 hours a week is still such great experience!

I honestly had the best time volunteering, and I learned so much! As a volunteer, your main responsibilities will probably be to keep the playrooms clean and organized, play with children when they are in the playrooms, provide children who cannot leave their rooms with bedside activities, and assist the Child Life Specialists with anything they may need! Once I was volunteering for a couple weeks and the Child Life Specialists started giving me more responsibilities, I helped out with Pet Therapy, Pizza Parties, Ice Cream Parties, and Clown Visits. During your time volunteering, you’ll get a feel of what it’s like to work in a hospital, what Child Life does, and how to act professionally. Take it all in because this is the first step in your Child Life Journey! Make it a memorable one!

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Do You THON?

I went to Penn State University where THON was a huge part of my life. For those of you who don’t know, the Penn State Dance Marathon is the largest entirely student run philanthropy in the entire world! It is a 46 hour, no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon where all of the money raised over the whole entire year goes to the Four Diamond’s Fund to help families battling pediatric cancer with their hospital costs. Throughout the year, students from all different organizations go canning in their hometowns to collect donations for THON and to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. Each year during THON weekend, 710 dancers from different organizations are chosen to dance for their paired families, and for THON 2014, I was chosen to dance for my amazing tour guide organization, Penn State Lion Scouts. I was able to stand for 46 hours straight to honor our two amazing THON families, and all of the other children who are fighting pediatric cancer. THON weekend was one of the best and most honorable weekends of my life, and I can honestly say that it added to my passion for Child Life. I thought about the whole weekend how each of the children fighting pediatric cancer probably have a Child Life Specialist helping to make their hospital experince not so bad. Everytime I blew bubbles with a child I thought that I could be doing this for my whole life. THON is such an amazing effort that should never go unnoticed. It is truly amazing what dedicated people can do when they come together for a common cause. Last year, THON raised 13.3 million dollars, making it’s total over the years over 100 million dollars all FTK (for the kids).

THON actually helped me find one of my passions in Child Life, working in oncology. From being involved in THON, I have worked a lot with children fighting cancer. And during my volunteer work, I also worked with many children battling cancer. Being so inspired by THON has made me realize that I may possibly want to work in an oncology unit once I start working. I truly feel that the cure for cancer is so close, and I want to be involved in anyway possible when that cure is found!

I’m sure some of you went to or are going to universities that have their own dance marathons! Feel free to share your dance marathon stories and how they have inspired you – I would love to hear!

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How I Found Child Life

Like I said before, I had no idea I wanted to be a Child Life Specialist when I first came to college. Honestly, I didn’t even know what Child Life was. So, don’t be ashamed if you were the same way! That’s what college is for – finding your passions and what you want to be in life, right?

So, the first time I even heard the words Child Life was in my PSYCH 105 class, a required class for all psychology majors that introduced you to different professions you could pursue as a psychology major. We were assigned a paper where we had to look in our textbook and find a profession that interested you, and write about it. After browsing the text, I stumbled across “Child Life Specialist” and started reading the chapter about the job. Let me tell you – from that night on, I was hooked. I immediately did a google search for the next steps that I had to take to become a Child Life Specialist, and youtubed videos of Child Life Programs at different hospitals around the country. While watching these videos, I could really imagine myself as a Child Life Specialist and I was so happy because I finally found the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I always loved children, and had a bunch of babysitting, daycare, and summer camp jobs with kids, and knowing that I could work with children for the rest of my life, helping them to feel better in hospitals made me so happy! Since then, I was set on my career and I never looked back. Every step that I’ve taken since that point has been in the Child Life direction. PSYCH 105 was the beginning of my Child Life Journey.

My advice to you is that it’s never too late. I didn’t discover Child Life until my sophomore year at Penn State. While it is a moderately long journey with practicums and internships before you do become employed, it is all worth it and if you’re really passionate about it, YOU CAN DO IT!

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