Hear from recent Grace College graduate, Ellie Price, about how an elevator ride and Grace College led her to an unexpected calling as a Child Life Specialist (from grace.edu).
The Most Impactful Elevator Ride
When people ask me what got me started in my pursuit of working with kids in a hospital setting as a Child Life Specialist, I always tell them about the most impactful elevator ride of my life.
My mom, sister, and I were visiting my uncle in the hospital and on our way up to the floor he was on, a mom and her young daughter joined us in the elevator. The little girl had no hair and was wheeling an IV pole next to her. It was clear that she was a sick patient at the hospital, but what was more striking about this scene was the fact that she was wearing princess slippers and a princess pajama gown. As soon as this little girl and her mom got off of the elevator and into the throng of nurses, my sister and I just started crying. How could someone so innocent have something as terrible as the sickness that took her hair and corrupted her childhood?
That elevator ride sparked a passion in me that has brought me to this point where I am pursuing certification as a Child Life Specialist so I can improve the quality of life in the lives of people like that little girl in the elevator.
Grace As Her Guide
My journey to becoming a Child Life Specialist had a bit of a slow start. I knew since that elevator ride that I wanted to work with pediatric patients, but it wasn’t until high school that I realized in what capacity I wanted to work with this population. I discovered a love of art in high school and was in a class with a girl who had gone through Art Therapy when she was hospitalized. Because of conversations with her, I realized that I wanted to pursue Art Therapy in a hospital setting with kids. I quickly grew discouraged, however, when my Google search of “Art Therapy internships in hospital settings with kids” did not have many productive results.
It wasn’t until I met with Dr. Roberts, in the School of Behavioral Sciences at Grace College that I was given more direction. I was telling him that I wasn’t finding many results when he asked if I was trying to describe Child Life. Having never heard of the Child Life Specialist profession, I said, “Mmmm, no, that’s not it” and proceeded to describe the job description for a Child Life Specialist in complete oblivion. He chuckled and said, “You should probably check out Child Life.”
This was a pivotal moment in my journey because that conversation with Professor Roberts gave me so much more direction and insight into this career.
Also during my time at Grace, I served as the Director of the Student Activity Board under the direct supervision of Kearstin Criswell, Director of Student Involvement. In this role, I learned so many professional, leadership, and interpersonal communication skills that have become invaluable in this process. I am confident in my practicum and internship interviews, capable in fulfilling my duties as a practicum student at the UC San Diego Medical Center, and proficient as I engage with pediatric patients and their families.
Oh the Places You’ll Go
I can’t believe I’ve been where I’ve been because of this crazy calling God put on my life. During Conference on Missions Week at Grace my sophomore year of college, I talked to an ambassador for a mission organization called Greater Europe Missions (GEM) about an opportunity to use art on the mission field in Europe. After applying and interviewing for this internship, I was offered a position at Camp des Cimes, a camp in the French Alps, to use art during their camps. While there, I was able to interact with campers as a counselor, video production team member, and art workshop leader. That summer shaped my life in more ways than I could ever describe. This eventually led to me spending a second summer in France as the leader for GEM’s Ten2 Project.
My journey with Child Life didn’t end in France, either. I am currently in San Diego, California fulfilling a practicum at the UC San Diego Medical Center in the burn unit. The majority of my time is spent in the Outpatient Burn Clinic where we offer support and distraction for the pediatric patients and their families. In the Outpatient Clinic, children have their burns looked at and cleaned, which can understandably be very distressing and painful. As a Child Life student, I am able to prepare the patient and their family for what to expect when the nurses and doctors come in and explain things in developmentally appropriate ways for the children. Not only that, but we are able to use toys and books as distractions if the patient does not want to watch their wounds being cleaned. It amazes me every time to see a two-year-old laugh at a toy while they normally would be crying in pain if they were focusing on what the nurses were doing.
This is a very difficult profession that I am pursuing, and it’s been a very difficult transition to see so much hurt, loss, and pain every day, but the experience I am gaining in this practicum is invaluable. It’s helpful to live so close to the beach because most weeks I definitely need some time to gain perspective and take a break from the hospital atmosphere. My goal is to go to the beach at least once a week while I’m here! The next step in this journey is to get into an internship. Because this field is extremely competitive, I will need to apply to hospitals all over the U.S. in hopes of getting accepted into at least one program–you need to be willing to pick up and move to wherever you are accepted or hired.
So ultimately it’s a tough career to pursue, but the journey is taking this Winona Lake, Indiana girl all over the world and I wouldn’t change any bit of it!