Bachelor’s degree in child life studies (or a related field such as child development, child and family studies, psychology, or early childhood education)
Education requirements as determined from the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP)
Previous experience working with children
Posted as a licensed child care specialist
Child life specialists are health care professionals who help children and families navigate the process of illness, injury, disability, trauma, or hospitalization.
A child life specialist is a healthcare worker who is often employed in the pediatric department of a hospital among other venues. They work with children under 18 years of age (although patients are often younger children) and their families to ease discomfort during hospital visits as well as educate children on health issues and topics.
They are an integral part of the health care team, as they provide additional support resources to children and families to help process the often stressful situation of an illness or injury.
What will you do daily
Supporting children and their families by using a variety of tactics to help them better understand a process, procedure, or another element of their medical experience
Developing age-appropriate strategies to minimize trauma and increase understanding of a medical diagnosis through treatments plans using therapeutic play, education, preparation, and activities that promote growth and development
Advocating for the special needs of children and their families
Helping children and their families process and cope with medical situations
Providing information, support, and guidance to parents and family members
Knowledge of medical terminology – child life specialists should understand medical terminology to help families understand illnesses and answer questions they have about their situations
Knowledge of child development – when helping children during medical crises, child life specialists consider the child’s cognitive and emotional development to provide age-appropriate explanations and therapies
Counseling skills – as social workers, child life specialists use counseling techniques such as individual and family talk therapy and therapeutic recreational activities to help children and families cope with trauma
Interpersonal skills – managing conflicts within families, listening to problems, understanding children’s emotions, and influencing families positively all require child life specialists to have strong interpersonal skills
Communication skills – whether offering talk therapy or writing reports about cases, communicating clearly orally and in writing is an important daily task for child life specialists
Where will you work
Child life specialists work primarily in the pediatric department of hospitals. They may be called to assist in other departments within the hospital setting to comfort children when an adult in their life is receiving care.
Some child life specialists work in less common settings like dental offices, schools, or funeral homes. These specialists may work as independent contractors who move between several locations depending on needs.
Child life specialists working with children who have chronic illnesses but still attend school may educate the child’s classmates on the child’s illness.
The specialist is often a familiar face to children who receive care from a host of medical professionals, so it is often important they attend to needs outside of the hospital as well. While these child life specialists are employed at the hospital, the location of their job duties will vary depending on the child’s needs.
Child life specialists are often hired directly from educational programs and after obtaining certification into work facilities like hospitals.
Some of these individuals have already advanced from a child life assistant, which only requires a two-year degree. From the child life specialist position, there can be advancement opportunities into leadership and team management positions.
Child life specialists can also choose to worSak for different facilities that may pay more, however their job duties will remain relatively similar across locations.