I learned about the career of a child life specialist through one of my classmates in the Individual and Family Development major. As she described the career field, I felt like it would be a great fit for me. I researched the field and learned that to become a child life specialist you must have your bachelor’s degree and at least 480 hours of child life internship training, and then sit for the certification exam.
In my senior year I applied to eight internship programs around the country to work toward becoming a child life specialist. I was accepted into a program at the University of California, Davis, Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California. After graduating from SPU with a degree in Individual and Family Development, I moved to Sacramento and completed more than 600 hours of child life internship. I learned about the medical field and hospital environment as well as how to work with sick children and their families.
After my internship I was hired as a child life specialist fellow for six months. This opportunity gave me paid child life experience as well as more hours to help me to be a better candidate for future employment. After completing this fellowship, I took and passed the certification exam, and I am proud to say that I am now a certified child life specialist.
Every morning our staff gets a census that has the name, age, diagnosis, and additional psychosocial and medical information necessary to work with the patient and family. My job revolves around family-centered care. This means that we treat not only the patient, but the whole family. I prioritize my patients for the day and work accordingly. Procedures such as surgeries and IV placement, and new diagnosis often take priority in the day.
My job is to prepare children for procedures and medical care in order to reduce stress and anxiety in the hospital environment. Preparation can come in many forms, but typically involves teaching children about what is going to happen in developmentally appropriate terms. I often describe things in terms of senses: what they will smell, see, feel, hear, and taste. I also work with the children and families to discover and implement coping skills that would be beneficial throughout the procedure, illness, and hospital stay.
In the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit), I work with kids and their families in very high-stress situations. Much of my work in the PICU deals with end-of-life issues, which means that the child is actively dying. We focus on preparing siblings and parents for what to expect and how to cope. I also do “memory making” for the family to have handprints/footprints and molds as well as a clipping of hair and other mementos to aid in the grieving process. I believe it is a great honor when a family allows you to be involved in their child’s end-of-life process.
I love being a child life specialist! Although it can be emotionally taxing at times, I believe there is so much reward in helping a child and family in the hospital. Sickness is the reality for many families. My goal is to help to reduce the stress and fear as much as possible.
From design to cuisine to finances to body image, the Individual and Family Development major prepared me to advance well into the next season of my life. I am grateful for all that I studied and where it has brought me in my personal and occupational life.
Throughout my coursework in the Family and Consumer Sciences department, I found myself constantly curious. How did my experiences, combined with my temperament, give me a unique encounter with the world, and how was this similar to or different from my classmates? How could I begin to know myself more and appreciate the variety of voices and stories around me? I was encouraged and challenged by my professors and classmates on both a personal and a cultural level throughout my studies.
Family and Consumer Sciences encompasses the study of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and art in a way that no other program does. It provides a catalyst to pursue specialized careers while also gaining knowledge in broad areas of daily life. It marries the practical with the existential and the individual with the global. It was the interconnected approach to the curriculum that broadened my horizons while helping me locate my passions.
Inspired by these newfound passions, I chose to pursue a graduate degree in counseling psychology. I went on to obtain my Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and opened a private practice here in my campus neighborhood because I wanted to remain connected to the first neighborhood that I had called “home.” In my practice, I counsel clients through the many stages and challenges of life.
My undergraduate degree in Family and Consumer Sciences reaffirmed what I believe to be essential to human existence: relationship. We are constantly driven to connect with each other and with our surroundings. The relationships we form both help us survive and bring an incredible sense of meaning to our lives.
Since October 2006, I have had the amazing opportunity to travel as a volunteer chaperone with the African Children's Choir, accompanying 26 children around the U.S. and Canada. The African Children's Choir (ACC) seeks to help Africa's most vulnerable children break out of poverty through education. Money is raised from the touring and performing for audiences around the world; the money is used not only for various educational programs, which include around 7,000 children, throughout Africa but also to support the choir children through university level. It is the hope of ACC that through this support, the children will grow up to become leaders in their communities and in turn help Africa tomorrow.
Because of my college education at Seattle Pacific, and more specifically because of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, I graduated with a feeling that I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone. The FCS core classes I took got me thinking about my role in society and the world and how I could help make a change to better the welfare and safety of others. Two months after graduation, I attended an ACC concert for the first time and found myself drawn to the mission of the organization; I believe it is in part because it parallels that of FCS, offering hope to individuals and families.
So when I heard God's call to travel as a chaperone, teacher, and advocate, it felt natural to step into the role. Not only did my classes stir the desire in me to do this type of work, but also taught me a lot that has proved to be helpful along the way while working with children and a team of adults! My four years in the FCS department was a very valuable experience.
I had an amazing experience as an Individual and Family Development major. Being a part of this major gave me the opportunity to study a topic that I'm extremely passionate about: how to nurture healthy human development. The interdisciplinary nature of this major allowed me to capture a holistic snapshot of the many areas that are critical to development. As the product of a family that put an emphasis on the importance of education, I found myself focusing on how education plays a role in development, particularly for minorities.
The knowledge I gained as an Individual and Family Development major prepared me to step into my current role as the Director of MESA (Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement) at Edmonds Community College. The MESA program is designed to guide, support, and promote academic and career success among low-income community college students. The program is particularly concerned with providing underrepresented student populations, such as women and minorities an opportunity to excel in these areas of study. My knowledge of development, social services, and education that I gained as an Individual and Family Development major have prepared me to nurture and respond to my students needs holistically and with confidence.
While I have been blessed to find a great career, I plan to go to graduate school to further my knowledge. I plan to return to school to pursue a M.S. in the Cultural Foundations of Education. This masters program will allow me to study the connection between education and culture and how this connection can be used to promote education among minorities. After completing my masters degree, I intend to pursue a doctoral degree. It is my ultimate dream to become a respected voice and advocate for minority education; I want to "Engage the culture and change the World" one diploma at a time. I will forever be grateful for my experience as an Individual and Family Development major for planting the seeds of my dream.