The Learning Curve in a Child Life Practicum

The Learning Curve in a Child Life Practicum

As the child life field continues to grow many students are completing a practicum before they start their internship. It is a unique learning experience for the student, but also for the preceptor. Many specialists will strengthen their skills in teaching, communicating and self-reflecting during this supervisory role.

I am happy to share one specialists experience as a first time preceptor in a child life practicum. Sarah is a Certified Child Life Specialist and blogger at A Little Playfullness, a site dedicated to therapeutic activities for child life specialists in their work.

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A few of you may be wondering what a child life practicum student is. While it’s not necessary for certification, it has become the common practice that students who are pursuing a child life career first perform a 100 to 200 hour practicum experience prior to applying for internship positions. The goal of the practicum is to gain an introduction to child life through observation, written assignments, and interactions with patients, families, and the healthcare team. Students shadow child life specialists throughout their day, observing health care preparation, procedure support, medical rounding, and bereavement services, to name a few. Their assignments include weekly journal write ups, article reviews, in-services, developmental observations, and implementation of planned therapeutic activities. Depending on the facility, there may be additional assignments as well.

My experience as a practicum preceptor was incredibly insightful. Not only did it take me down memory lane to when I was a practicum student, it was also very interesting to see the other side of the fence. I found that it was important to encourage my student to really process the different interactions she saw and always look for ways to connect theory to practice. In our field, it’s important for us to be able to talk about the theory behind the tools and techniques we choose to use. When students interview for internships, they are expected to be able to talk about the theories and use examples. By practicing it during their practicum, that portion of the interview is easier.

Another thing I practiced was the art of not beating around the bush. I’m not going to lie. I love to talk. This is good, because being a practicum preceptor means you do a lot of talking. At the same time, there is such a thing as talking too much and going off on wild tangents. I think I’ve gotten pretty good about not going off on tangents and being concise when I explain things. Though sometimes my wild tangents have a point, I promise!

Finally, I learned the importance of letting go. Practicum students come to learn and I think the best way to learn is to practice. While practicum students don’t do procedure supports and preparations like interns, they definitely practice things like creating and implementing therapeutic activities. It was my job to coach my student in regards to things like therapeutic activities and encourage her to try things on her own when she was ready. My practicum student was awesome and always game to try new things. It was a wonderful honor to get to see her grow this summer. I can’t wait to see how she does in the future and I’m looking forward to meeting my next student!

To learn more about Sarah and her child life experience, follow her blog at ALittlePlayfullness.wordpress.com

How a Rare Disease Changed My Life

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May 20th is Behcet’s Disease Awareness Day.

This disease has been part of my life since I was a child. I can still place myself in that little seven-year old girl’s body, kneeling on my legs at the landing of our staircase. I was sitting close with my nine-year old brother and watching my parents try to find the words to explain the drastic change to our family. My mom finally had a diagnosis after going through many medical procedures and doctor appointments.

These words have forever changed our family.

“Mom, has Behcet’s Disease.”

As a kid, I couldn’t quite grasp what that meant. She looked fine to me, but I could tell that there was a sadness in both her and my dad’s eyes. They knew what the disease was already doing to her body and what it had the potential to do.

“There is no cure.”

This was even more difficult to hear. I remember what my next thought was, but I can’t remember if had the courage to ask it, or if they told us the answer before we thought it.

“She won’t die.”

At this point I remember crying. The relief that she won’t leave us, but that she was still sick with an incurable, invisible disease was still hard to take in.

Over the years, I still just saw my mom. I didn’t see the disease first, I saw her first. She is the most amazing, optimistic, role model that a kid could ask for. Super involved, towed us to all our activities, and spent a lot of time making things very special for us. She has the biggest heart and has always put everyone before herself.

I did see what the disease did to her though. Her flare-ups could take her down and she would feel miserable for days at a time. My brother and I quickly learned what to do to help ease her of pain; an ice pack, dark room, prednisone, midrin, cold water and a check-in from her two adoring kids. We knew that she was sick, but she never complained or told us how bad it really was.

She was always optimistic and still is today.

Having a parent with a chronic and rare autoimmune disease did change our lives. There was some really difficult things that we went through, but we have persevered and have become a very strong, resilient team.

I do think that my passion in the field of child life was stemmed from my experience. I have a deeper understanding and emotional connection with families going through similar situations.

Looking back, I wish that there was a child life specialist working with me to help me understand what was happening, to provide support to my whole family and offer interventions that could release feelings and give us the sense of empowerment and normalcy.

I suppose I will take on that role and teach kids what I have learned from both my experience and from the training and education in child life.

To learn more about Behcet’s Disease check out this video from Dr. Yazici at the Vasculitis Foundation. My mom met with him a few years ago and his treatment plan made a HUGE difference in her life!

Here is my mom with one of her four grandkids, spoiling them with ice-cream and Gramy goodies!

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My Connection To Rare Disease Day 

International Behcet’s Disease Awareness Day

2013, What a Year!

This has been an awesome year of growth for me. I set out last January determined to find a better balance between parenting and feeling connected to my child life roots.

My adoring husband and child life mentor/friend pushed me to try something out of my comfort zone. They knew I had potential to really connect with so many and the door to the virtual world was right at my fingertips.

So I did it. I was brave and put myself out there. I had a million ideas and goals for this blog but never really estimated the opportunities that could come from it.

A job opportunity, in co-teaching a graduate course at Bank Street for child life students. AMAZING!

A published book teaching children and parents on what to expect at a doctor visit. DOUBLE AMAZING!

Teaching workshops for parents and professionals on child-centered play techniques and preparation for going to the doctor. Okay seriously, Beyond AMAZING!

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I feel like I have helped so many, but I also feel like my growth as a parent has been equally impacted.

I am more patient with my kids than I was before. I really do try to practice what I preach. I am human and make plenty of mistakes, but I reflect and try to change them for the better.

I have a deeper emotional connection with my kids than I did before. They feel the empathy and endless love from me and I get it right back.

I appreciate the quality of time I spend with my family and friends. All of those little snapshots in my head of giggles, smiles, dance parties and connecting our souls together are incredibly special.

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What a year, 2013 has been!

Thank you to all my followers for your support and encouragement. You have really helped me fill a void both professionally and personally.

I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Happy New Year!