If you follow the Child Life Council and have read their latest Bulletin, then you are aware of the current changes in progress. As of 2022, all Certified Child Life Specialists must hold a Masters in Child Life (Child Life Council Bulletin, 2013, p.7).
Undergrad students who plan on becoming a child life specialist may question if they think it is necessary to get a Masters. Well my answer would be yes and I am here to tell you about one of the most esteemed child life programs in the country, Bank Street College of Education.
Currently there are only four Masters in Child Life Graduate programs in the country. Bank Street has always met the requirements of the Child Life Council (CLC) and has actually gone above their requirement of fieldwork hours from 480 to 600. There are many amazing reasons why Bank Street is the best fit for potential child life grad students, so let me break it down.
The Developmental Interaction Approach Basically what Bank Street is known for is a very hands on approach to learning. The students have the opportunity to really develop child life skills by actually trying out the course work and the fundamental theories. Through activities, discussions, reflections, observations, individual, small and large group work, the students are given a very in-depth way to process the course content and become confident in trying it out during their fieldwork.
The Supervision and Support- You aren’t going to find another program that offers as much individual support and dedication to each student as the program at Bank Street. The director, Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale and faculty advisors Deb Vilas and Genevieve Lowry are both instructors and fieldwork supervisors. They are committed to making sure that each student is getting exactly what they need to become not just a good child life specialist, but a well-rounded, confident, leader.
The Intimacy The program typically takes on roughly 14-16 new students each year. Within the two-year program the students have a deep connection to one another and carry on friendships and support to well beyond graduation. The class size is small and allows for a better learning experience where everyone’s voice is heard. The fieldwork classes are typically broken down into two to three small conference groups. This weekly group meets to discuss students’ experiences at their fieldwork sites with a Bank Street fieldwork advisor facilitating. This is an amazing time for the students to reflect on their strengths, struggles and process the intensity and emotional toll that the field can take. Students are able to open up, with no judgment and given a chance to express the array of emotions that they may encounter during their interactions with patients and families. There are lots of tears, hugs and a variety of coping strategies to ensure they will be able to handle the field without burnout or compassion fatigue.
Learning from the Experienced Ones: Certified child life specialists, many who are Bank Street alum, teach all of the classes. The students are able to hear real stories and experiences that the instructors have had while working in the field. There is a comradery among child life specialists. As a student learning from a certified child life specialist, our eyes are twinkling and we are smiling thinking, “Tell me more! Tell me more!” The same enthusiasm applies to the instructor teaching the students, as they convey, “I am so excited that you want to work in the most amazing field ever. Here are helpful tips to really make you a rock star specialist!”
Staying Part of the Medical Team: When you are working in the health care field, you will be part of the medical team. There are many child life programs that are still trying to get their program recognized as an elite, necessary and highly important role for not just the patients but for the entire hospital. As child life specialists we know how valuable our job is and it is helpful to remind other professions who carry a Masters or Doctorate, that we too are educated and trained with a Masters. Maybe there will be a future push to get a PhD in the child life field?
Bank Street is Going Online: As of fall 2014, Bank Street’s Child Life Program will be offered both in the face to face format, as well as online. This will be a great opportunity for potential students who are unable to relocate to New York to still participate in getting a Masters from the highly esteemed graduate program. As of next fall, Bank Street is looking to offer the online course to perspective candidates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland. I think that over time they will eventually expand to other states. I know many are wondering how you can still have that hands on approach through the virtual world, but knowing Bank Street and all the work that is going into the preparation for an online environment, students will still be able to receive that in-depth, dedicated and compassionate connection that Bank Street is known for.
Continued Support: The professors and advisors have an open door policy, even after graduation. They are always there to help guide and support you through your journey in the child life field. Even after graduating in 2007, I know that I can reach out at anytime to them or my colleagues and they would be there for me in a second. Gotta love child life!
If you are interested in gaining more knowledge about the program, fieldwork and applying you can always contact me at ChildLifeMommy@gmail.com.
Child Life Council. (2013). CLC board approves recommendation for advanced degree requirement effective 2022. The Child Life Council Bulletin, 7.