Published Monday Nov 12, 2018
Six seniors at Tennessee Tech recently shared the innovative experiential learning opportunities that are preparing them for work in the challenging field of child life with professionals from across the southeast.
Through cross-disciplinary case studies and interprofessional pediatric simulations for child life students at Tech, Lila Easter of Hendersonville, Lindsey Harris of Millington, Sarah Dowd of Alamo, Kari Lockmiller of Chattanooga, Robin Hales of Columbia and Cole Matthews of Dayton got a closer look at what their professional experiences will be like, experiences they presented on while attending the newly-established Southeastern Association of Child Life Professionals conference in Hunstville, Alabama.
“Child life specialists are there to make scary situations less scary,” Easter said.
A child life specialist is a psychosocial team member who serves children and families during times of situations of stress. These specialists are trained to assist children and families in coping with the stress of healthcare experiences and are equipped to provide interventions to support the child and family’s continued development.
They are found primarily in the hospital environment and are expanding to include children of adult patients and specialty areas, such as pediatric outpatient healthcare facilities, specialized camps, funeral homes and hospice.
Child life specialists work with people in different fields, from occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses and physicians. The simulation lab – which was proposed by the Tech’s School of Nursing — these students had with nursing students gave them an idea of what to expect in the field.
The nursing students played the roles of family members and medical professionals.
“The case study targeted both nursing and child life and how they each come up with their own plan of care,” Easter said.
They were given a scenario of a family’s crisis situation which gave them the opportunity to see how each person would approach the case and care for each person in the family.
Tech’s program is the first of its kind to be offered at the bachelor’s level in the state and is directed by a certified child life specialist, giving students the opportunity to learn from the professionals and to work with children and families throughout the curriculum.
In order to earn a bachelor of science degree in human ecology, child life concentration, students must be accepted into and successfully complete an internship, which is supervised by a certified child life specialist.
The seniors got their experiences all over the country. Harris spent her time in Memphis, Dowd spent time in Savannah, Georgia, Easter was also in Memphis at St. Jude, Lockmiller was in Oklahoma while Hales was in San Antonio, Texas.
Matthews is in the process of applying for an internship.
“It prepared me to be very confident in situations,” Hales said. “It showed me that we have to go above and beyond and be professional in any situation.”
The Southeastern Association of Child Life Professionals is a regional group supporting child life students, academics and clinicians in Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama that strives to prepare a solid foundation for students to grow and creates networking and professional development opportunities for professionals.
Lila Easter and Sarah Dowd, child life students, work with a nurse in the simulation lab.
Child life students Lila Easter, Sarah Dowd and Kari Lockmiller in the simulation lab.