Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Revamping a Dormant Child Life Program: Month One

Hello,  Long time no blog...I've missed this blog, but let's be honest, we are one of the oldest child life blogs out there, there is so much new information, and social media has really taken over which is just incredible, I love the honest conversations and hard topics that are finally being addressed. I'm not promising anything, but I'm just going to say it feels good to be in this space again. 

Some quick updates on my life...

I got married(in a fully outdoors, covid safe wedding), moved to Texas, and am now working as an inpatient child life specialist after five wonderful years of being in the emergency department. I also was able to experience the Texas winter storm. We were without power for 3 days, but luckily we had water. 

Anyone else tired of living through historical events?

Wild two months right? 

Let's talk about my new job. When I was interviewing for this job it was marketed as starting over the child life program, and it would be a one person program for a few months to a year until they could get approval for an additional child life position. 

A little background on child life at this hospital: They have had a child life program for about 5 years, however it has been very transient with specialists leaving, having babies, coming back part time or per diem. The last year year and a half, there has only been one per diem child life specialist meaning the hospital could go weeks without child life and when the per diem specialist came in she had other tasks to do so seeing kids didn't end up being the priority.

I accepted the job and was excited for the new challenges. A month prior to starting, the hospital called me and said they were able to approve the additional position and there would be two of us starting at the same time. This was great news! Someone to bounce ideas off and really roll out the child life program all over the hospital. 

Stats of my new hospital: It is a community hospital with 16 pediatric beds, 10 PICU beds, a NICU, and a dedicated 8 bed PEDS Emergency Room. Child life also sees children of adult patients, pre-op and outpatient radiology. 

That sounds great right? Not too small, not too giant. Enter Covid. I'm sure most of you are aware that the pandemic has changed a lot of things in all hospitals, the biggest being our census. The census is low. Kids are wearing masks, some are not going to school, people are staying home, the kids just aren't getting as sick. This hospital is no exception, our census is crazy low. The other bit of bad news is they turned the beautiful freshly remodeled PEDS ED into a covid unit, so I haven't even been able to see it. 

Luckily, starting a child life program takes a lot of non-patient care work, so this has been a blessing in disguise for us. 

The first week of work, the per diem child life specialist took us on a tour of the hospital, showed us how things worked, helped us switch over email lists, and let us ask a million questions. We spent any extra time cleaning and organizing the office, storage closet and playroom. 

One of the first things I did, was set up a meeting with my manager, the per diem child life specialist and my co-worker to discuss short and long term goals of the program, past issues and covid rules. This was helpful in seeing what goals we all had and which ones were most important to my manager. 

During this meeting, my manager said she wanted us to branch into all areas of the hospital, to do this she was able to set up a meeting with each director of the different units for us. We had a meeting with the managers of NICU, Surgery, the Emergency Department and Radiology. These were invaluable meetings. We were able to show our faces, create virtual presentations, and printables for them to hand out or hang up. Instantly things started happening, pre-op wanted us every morning they had peds cases, NICU wanted us to present at their monthly staff meeting, and Radiology asked for help with a wiggly friend. Here is my disclaimer, this is not the norm. Last time I started a program there were many barriers, red tape and hoops to jump through. I was ready for that fight again, but it hasn't come, everyone is so welcoming, willing to learn and teach about child life, and all the units want us. 

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you all know my quote that went viral, "You are a child life specialist no matter what you bring into a room with you, you are a child life specialist because of what you know and what you can do"... however I realized quickly that this program had little to no distraction tools. 

I emailed the head of IT to see if they had any extra iPads laying around, and after explaining what child life was, he ordered two brand new iPads and cases for us! I also sent my manager a list of my favorite tools (aka all of my Toy Tuesdays) and she provided us with amazon and target gift cards to order a few!  What a win! 

We have continued to do as much behind the scenes work as possible while seeing our small patient load. Many of our short term goals have already been hit. Progress has been made this month but there is still so much more to do. 

Questions? Feel free to DM me on insta or write them under the post! 

Talk to you soon! 


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Back in the Blogging Game

Hi friends. It's been awhile. I don't know how many of you are even still following our little old blog here. 

For the sake of followers, I am going to provide you with a few life updates. 

If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that our very own Sydney is getting married. We can't wait to celebrate in the big city in just a few short weeks. It will also be my first time flying with a 6 month old! Sydney is still marching along as a jam up Child Life Specialist in the Emergency Department and remains incredibly active in the professional community. 

But this post is from me. Caroline. 

Hi. I am Caroline. It's been nearly 6 years since I sat for my certification exam and become an official Child Life Specialist. If you followed my journey at all, you know that I have had some professional life crises through the years and never officially held the title of "Child Life Specialist." However, I have remained active in my certification, continued to attend professional development, and network with my peers. 

But if you've been following us, you know I jumped off the face of the blogging world a couple of years ago when I transitioned to be a Child Development Center Director. 

I've struggled to blog as I have moved further from the traditional field of Child Life and more into Early Childhood Education, specifically Birth to 5 years. I was really hot with passion for Child Life in the community setting, but life got in the way. For the past four years, I have been the Director of a high quality child development center in Georgia. It has taken every ounce of my energy, passion, drive and personality to do that job like I knew it needed to be done. It was draining. And yet rewarding beyond your imagination. 

And then 2020. 

In 2020: 

  • My husband and I bought a new house
  • COVID-19 happened
  • We had a baby
  • I returned from maternity leave
  • I resigned after maternity leave
  • I began a new job (Child Care Resource and Referral) 

Whew. I am exhausted reading that list. Whilst this year has been crazy and hectic, it has also brought multiple moments where I have felt drawn back to my writing. So here I am. Typing. Unsure of where I am to go in this virtual atmosphere where words have such a heavy weight. But I am present. My plan is to speak for the generation who can't. And as a new mommy myself, my heart is heavy by the affects COVID is having on our children. 

I can't promise some kind of beautiful and smooth transition back into the world of blogging because man... that's exhausting making it all so picture perfect. But what I can promise you in transparency and real life experiences. 

So here's what I need from you. I want us to begin the conversation of how COVID and all that it encompasses is going to futuristically impact our practices, our children, and development in general. 

Disclaimer: This is not a political or social platform. We have not and will not use this to promote or criticize any social or political agenda. So please, I ask as kindly as possible, leave all of these comments and opinions to yourself. 

Feel free to comment here, send us an email, or DM us on Instagram letting us know what some of your thoughts are on Child Life/ Child Development etc in the aftermath of this pandemic. We're even looking to features some guest writers in the weeks to come. If you have a story, thought, idea, or research, send it our way! 


Thursday, October 15, 2020


 Hear me out, I've posted a lot of toys over the years, and have not posted a new blog post for over a year. It's not even Tuesday. You need this. 

If you are a Child Life Specialist you need this tool in your bag, box whatever you use. This tool only comes out during Halloween. 

This tool will be your new best friend. 

This tool is game changer in CT scans, VCUG's, infant distraction and so much more. (Unless you are cool and already have LED projector toys) 

Go to your local Lowes or order online as soon as you can because these guys sell out every year. I just bought 5 of them last night (a little extreme but I can't imagine my life without one)

I know, I know it looks like a plain flashlight, but this small thing can light up an entire patient room, the whole CT scanner, a tent that you made out of a sheet to hide an extremity from a patient, the wall in x-ray, a wagon floor anything you can imagine.  

Here are some quotes from my other child life friends when I told them the tool was back in stock!

"Yayyyy I love that thing" 

"I forgot how magical the Lowes toy is" 

"game changer, I'm buying 3 at least this year" 


"Just used it on a baby they sent to CT three times, mesmerized, please grab me a fresh one" 

"No way, I'll go in the morning, did yours have plenty?" 

RUN TO LOWES (or order here)



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Toy Tuesday: Baby Shark

Hi! Welcome back to Toy Tuesday
Today I'm coming at you with a brand new find.

Baby Shark has swept the nation. In every procedure you know we are listening, singing and dancing to the song. You might love it, you might hate it, you might love to hate it, but you will you do anything for the kids.

My issue has always been when parents say, "they love baby shark," but they are under age two, and  I didn't bring my iPad with me. This new toy allows me to bring the song and not the screen.

I'm in love with this.

The Baby Shark Melody Pad. This little yellow guy is my new best friend. He comes with me to all procedures now.

He of course plays the beloved Baby Shark, but he also plays Wheels on the Bus, ABC's, I am Special, Jungle Boogie, and many more. Moving his fin adds sound effects when you press the button. He has volume control so you can have it quieter or jam out on loud mode.

He retails for $49.99 but currently Amazon is offering 40% off making him only $29.99. This is the time to grab him.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Proving you are a Child Life Specialist

My Mantra and Child Life Philosophy has always been: 

"You are a Child Life Specialist no matter what you bring into the room with you. You are a Child Life Specialist because of what you know and what you can do, and that's all that matters."
Today I am going to tell you a story of how I know Child Life is making an impact in my hospital.

I have been a child life specialist for 4 years now.  A few weeks ago, I got a text from a nurse stating that a patient was being brought back from CT because she was refusing to hold still, and the techs wanted to sedate. The nurse -caring for the patient- told them, "No, let's try child life." I talked to the patient about the CT scan, prepped her using my little doll CT machine, and talked about what made her so scared the first time. 
She said "I just didn't know what was happening, everyone was yelling at me to hold still and my arm hurt." 
So then I asked her if she thought she could finish the CT scan now that she understood why we needed the pictures and what was expected of her. She said, "Yes!" We continued to construct our coping plan including listening to a song from Tangled and blowing bubbles while we waited for the CT tech to come get us.

Sounds like a typical child life CT intervention right?

Image result for connecting with compassion child life
This is where the story gets good. The CT tech showed up- already annoyed- and said "Where is this magic child person or whatever??" I had never seen him before, so I introduced myself as Sydney the Child Life Specialist. He responded with, "You're the Child Life Specialist? What the he** is a teenager going to be able to do? This girl needs to be sedated" I informed him of my role with the healthcare team, my age, and then he laughed in my face. He turned to the patient's father, and said, "Let's go. We are going to be coming right back anyway."

You probably already know what happens next, right? The patient got right into the CT scanner, I turned on her favorite song, and blew the bubbles. And what do you know? The patient held perfectly still like a statue, and the scan was over in a few minutes. As much I wanted to gloat and brag to the CT tech, I kept my cool, high-fived my little friend, and said, "Let's go back and tell mom what a great job you did."

As we were walking back, the CT tech stopped me, and said, "That was amazing. The child wouldn't even get on the bed earlier, and she practically jumped up there. You really are magic. I'm sorry I doubted you, I'm telling all the other CT techs to put you on speed dial."

No one can ever make you feel inferior unless you let them. (A little Princess Diaries reference? Or just Elenor Roosevelt?) Now, I know this interaction could have totally backfired, the patient could have freaked out again, and needed the medication for sedation. While this would have been totally okay, I was able to show professionalism and make it work. As a child life specialist we have our haters - 
the people that call us toy ladies- 
or say all we do is blow bubbles- 
or play all day- 
but we know that everything we do is for a purpose.
Don't ever forget it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Preparing for a MRI

So have you ever had a medical procedure done for the first time? Maybe you've prepped for surgery 15,000 times but never had it yourself? Well, this happened to me for the first time this summer. First with an Endoscopy and second with an MRI. 

I hate needles. I can prepare a kiddo for a stick all day long, but personally I still struggle. My coping plan consists of looking away, pumping my other fist, and taking deep breaths. Sometimes I feel silly- but it works. 
Image result for mri

As I laid in the MRI machine, I thought to myself, "If I were a child, what would I be thinking right now?" 

1. There is a lot of sensory things going on. 

2. I am bored. 

3. These noises are really loud. 

4. Is it over yet? 

All of these thoughts and many more ran in and out of my mind for the 30 long minutes I laid there.

So here are some steps for a basic MRI prep:

1. Prep for an IV. Most of the time MRI's require contrast so kiddos may require an IV. 

2. Explain to kids what an MRI does (takes special pictures).

3. Show kids what the MRI looks and sounds like either using a doll sized MRI, a prep book, or app on the Ipad. 
Sydney recommends the simply saying app.

4. Talk about the time that an MRI takes. Compare it to something a child knows, if its 30 minutes the length of a TV show, if it's an hour the length of a movie etc.

5. Tell kids what their special jobs are during the MRI (not moving, still like a statue, special glue for arms, etc. )

6. Talk about questions, correct misconceptions, figure out a coping plan

7. Do a practice run, go in and see the MRI machine and practice laying still on a bed outside to see how the patient does.

6. Does your hospital utilize distraction for MRI(like movie goggles, or headphones), can a parent go in with the patient, can child life go in?

Some kids can do great during an MRI and others need sedation, don't feel discouraged if your prep and distraction didn't work, MRI's are tricky
Image result for mri toys

Caroline and Sydney

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Toy Tuesday: Shake it Baby

Hello Friends!

This is a product I should have shared years ago, but I'm just now getting around to it.

A baby soother is a magical little box that provides soothing vibrations, and noise to calm infants. The one we like at my hospital provides white noise, lullabies, heartbeat and running water.

We utilize this product in the ED during procedures to soothe infants. I have found using this, with a combination of swaddling, sweetease, and pacifying works wonders.

Our favorite brand is the Summer one and I will link it here. Its only around $15 and goes on sale frequently. Take off the Velcro strap and it's totally cleanable.

Tip: Need white noise in a pinch? Turn the oxygen to high in a patients room. (please make sure it's not on the patient)


Monday, October 1, 2018

Vegas Strong: One Year Later

This is a post I never thought I would have the courage to write, but as the one year anniversary of the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting is approaching, I thought it was time.

Quick Backstory: I work in a Children's Hospital within an adult hospital as a child life specialist in the pediatric emergency department.

October 1st 2017, started out as a normal night in the emergency department, it was low census due to a strange annual lull in patients from the end of September to the second or third week in October. 
It was almost 10:00pm. 

I remember, I was sitting at my station chatting with nurses and teaching a resident how to blow a big bubble, waiting on a doctor to do a laceration repair. The LET would be ready to go in about 10 minutes. 
At 10:15pm the all hospital tele goes off..."mass casualty incident 10 gun shot wounds coming by ground, more to follow."  
Since the patients were headed to the adult side and not pediatric we all kind of ignored it for a few minutes. The doctor appeared around the corner and said, "Syd are you ready to go stitch this kid up?" 
I grabbed my iPad and light spinner and said, "Yes, lets go." As we approached the room the doctor said, "You know what, I'm going to just walk over to the other side to see if i can help. I'll be right back.
As the doors opened to the adult side of the emergency department, I saw him take off running. Shortly after he left, our charge nurse and other nurses went over too. 
Shortly after that, an all call hospital page said, "Any available physicians to the Emergency Department Stat." 
About 10 minutes after that a new one said, "Any available nurse to the Emergency Department Stat.
About 5 minutes after that another one said, "Anyone with hands to the Emergency Department stat"

At this point multiple stories had been thrown around, a shooter on the strip, a shooter at a concert, a shooter at the hockey game. 
We had yet to turn on the news. 
We did not know six miles away, a gunman had shot through his hotel windows and opened fire on 22,000 fans at the outdoor Route 91 Harvest Festival. 

We did not know we would see almost 200 patients—And we surely didn't know that fifty-eight people would die. 

Unlike a normal day, the wounded arrived in waves. 
First the police came dropping off people two at a time, 
Then the pickup trucks, 
and then the two-door sedans with as many they could hold. Ambulances that abandoned protocol, bringing five at once, no time for backboards or stretchers. The walking wounded, staggering through our hospital doors. 
No one could ever imagine this.

It was now 10:50pm. 
We finally had the news on and knew there was a mass shooting at the Route 91 concert. 

On this particular night, several of my co-workers, friends and even my boyfriend were on the strip at the Vegas Knights Hockey game. Another one of my co-workers was at the concert. 
As the news of the shooting arrived, I began to frantically text them- hoping they were okay. They were on their way back to their cars while the shooting was happening. 
I remember texting in all caps 
"get off the Strip," 
and them texting back - 
"it must be a joke" or 
"just a few people we don't see anything.

And then there were no texts for 10 minutes... the longest 10 minutes of my life..

[Thankfully] then the texts rolled in...
" I've got a wounded person in my car I'm bringing them to the hospital"
"we are safe on the highway", 
"I'm barricaded in the MGM hotel", to 
"I'm safe. I'm home."

Back to the hospital: 
About this time, the police showed up... this time with children who had been at the concert and gotten separated from whoever they were with. 
And this is where Child Life comes in :)
The kids ranged in ages from 5-12. 
The police had told the kids fireworks had gone off early and hurt some people. The younger kids believed this story while the older kids knew the truth. 
Instead of telling the kids the cops had lied to them, I had each one of them tell me their stories of what they saw. I corrected any misconceptions and validated everything. 
We talked, colored pictures and squished some play dough while waiting for their family members. After about an hour all the children had been returned to family members. 
It was such a great relief to see the families reconnect. 

I then moved on to comfort care, 
and did whatever I could do to help anyone in need. 
I started in our waiting room which was now full of friends, family members, and other concert goers looking for their loved ones that were hurt. I brought warm blankets, water, Kleenex, shirts, baby wipes, band aids, gauze and crackers to these people. 
I sat with them, hugged them, cleaned them, prayed with them... everything I could think of to make them more comfortable... and it just didn't seem like enough. 

I looked around the room. Desperate to continue helping in this crisis. I realized one of our nurses was sitting at the triage window. She was being bombarded by family members wanting updates and locations. The social workers were working as hard as they could to pair everyone back up, but it is a huge undertaking. 
Our hospital saw almost 200 victims that night. 
The nurse and I started our own check-in list to compare with the social workers so we could make sure every one was accounted for. 

Throughout the night, our pediatric Emergency Department shortly became an adult Emergency Department. I handed out stress balls, and even talked a few adults through wound cleansing and IV starts. 

The hours drug on and the rest of the night became blurry. Tears, happiness of reuniting, so many people coming to donate blood... so much blood on the floor... 
directing family members to different parts of the hospital, and so many just  people wanting to help. 

I stayed till 6am the next day. 
I'll always remember how quiet Las Vegas seemed that morning. 

During the next week the Child life Disaster Relief team came to Las Vegas. My coworker and I helped them get some toys and any other items they might need to help the kiddos.

A year later, I really thought I would be okay... but as I started seeing Vegas Strong signs and hearing about events...
 my entire body just becomes covered in goosebumps, and the memories start flashing back.  
The images of that night are still crystal clear. 
The guilt remains for not being able to do more and for being afraid. I remember the outpouring of love, from other hospitals, from other child life specialists, from the community, from my coworkers. For as much pain, grief and suffering I witnessed, I saw even more love, selflessness, and appreciation for one another. There are some truly amazing people in this world and I'm lucky to work with some of them.

Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary, I visited the Las Vegas Sign, which is turned into a memorial. I read about each of the 58 victims. 
I cried. 
I took a bubble bath. 
I feel better. 
I feel ready for tomorrow. 

 I am Vegas Strong and always will be. 
Thank you for letting me take a break from the blog, 
and heal and find my own way back. 

All my love, Sydney

Sunday, September 16, 2018

FACLP 2018- What's in Your Tool Box?

And just like that another FACLP Conference is in the books... 

I love FACLP. 
I love conferences. 
I love child life. 
I love feeling revitalized. 
I love networking with people of like minds. 
What about you? 

This year's FACLP theme was "What's in your Tool Box?" My first thought was... "Well that doesn't really apply to me anymore, does it?" 

But as always, conference has a way of putting things into perspective for me. 

My Tool Box is my Tool Box. Not yours. It's mine. I can have what I need in it to be the best I can be at whatever I might set out to accomplish. 

As is the case with many things in this world, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparison. It's easy for me to quickly assume that as a CCLS, my tool box should contain things such as "5 years working in Children's Hospital of ABC" or "Extensive experience in the ICU setting working with XYC population." 

But as in other areas of life, my tool box looks different... and it's about time I own it with pride. It's time for me to start giving back to the child life community with my unique skill set instead of being ashamed of my tool box. 

My Tool Box contains items such as 

I am a Child Life Specialist. No, I don't work in a hospital. I might never work in a hospital again. Or maybe I will? Who's to say where my tool box might take me next? But what I do know for sure- My tool box is my tool box, and no one can take it from me. 

Remember that iconic quote from The Princess Diaries? 

So why do we give others the power to make us feel like our tool box is inferior to theirs? 

It's your tool box! Own it!

So what's in your tool box? 
How different is yours than mine? 
How similar is it? 
Where has your child life journey taken you? 
Let us know in the comments! 


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Confusion for the CCLS

Hi friends! 
So it's been nearly a year since we have posted anything on here, and yet in the mean time we still have constant emails regarding questions for those entering the wonderful field of child life! Yahoo! 

I've been thinking about you all lately and what I would like to say to my readers... And honestly, I think it's more of a confession. 
Image result for job confusion
I am slightly embarrassed by my current job position. (And I don't know how to talk about it within the Child Life Community.)
Image result for embarrassed I have been working in a nonprofit, community based organization for almost 2 years now. (And I love it so much). 
A little over a year ago, an opportunity arose for me to become the Director of the Early Learning Center within the organization. My first thoughts were "No, I'm a CCLS. Not a child care teacher." "I worked too hard on my certification to go back to early education." 

However, y'all. It's been the best thing for me yet. I work in a city where there is a Children's Hospital right down the road... I could go apply for a CCLS position, but ya know what? I did a few years ago, and I didn't get it after two different interviews. That door was closed. 
Why? I don't know. But I know I am not supposed to be in the hospital setting. It was never in the plans for me. 

So here I am with my CCLS (and MASTERS degree at that), directing a really nice, high quality early learning center with a huge waiting list... 
And when I get that email from the ACLP telling me I owe this fee or that fee, part of me starts to cry inside (Not just because of how much it costs, because whoa!) but because I feel an unspoken criticism from the child life world. I feel as if my certification does not mean as much as yours because I am not in the hospital. 

When we get emails from students asking for an interview for their classes, I hate responding saying, "Well I don't work in the hospital, but I would love to help anyways." 

When I sign up for conferences and all of the workshops are for medical procedures, end of life care, staffing, or new preparation interventions... I ask myself, why am I spending money? 

And most importantly, when people ask me what Child Life is... I struggle to find an answer sometimes. But Child Life is simply helping children cope with life's challenges. And that's what I do every day, just not in the hospital. 

Yes, I am aware of (and somewhat involved in the online forum) the movement for Child Life in a Community Based Setting, but even then it is a focus on medical. 

It doesn't relate to me. Does that make me less of a Certified Child Life Specialist? 

Food for thought? 

Well of course, it doesn't make me any less of of a CCLS because I worked super hard for those four little letters, I pay a lot of money every year to maintain them, and I attend as many professional development conferences I can to continue to increase my knowledge. 

However, when does it change? When does it become acceptable and supported to be a CCLS in an early education setting? When do we start supporting each other for the individual paths we begin on? 

I am not a Director of an Early Learning Center because I failed to receive a position in a hospital- which is what most people assume. I CHOSE to work in the community setting. 
I CHOSE to be the Director of an Early Learning Center. 
I LOVE my job and what I do every day. 

So help me change the expectations. Help me advocate for the necessity of Child Life beyond the hospital. 
I mean hell0- because of my CCLS- I have enrolled a child with a feeding tube, and helped assess a child with a language delay! 

The expertise of Child Life is beneficial way beyond the hospital, clinics, and doctor's offices. Children need Child Life because we know children.

So I am tired of being embarrassed. I am tired of avoiding the blog because I become emotionally fatigued over rationalizing my job choice. I am going to start speaking up for the spread of the Child Life Profession in other settings! 

Anyone feel me? 
Anyone support me? 
What are your thoughts?