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Child Life Internship Program gains accreditation

May. 24, 2018, 8:32 AM

Elise Pillsbury plays with Child Life specialist Emily Powell. Puppets are used to explain procedures to children. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Child Life Internship Program has earned accreditation from the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).

The internship is a competitive, 18-week, full-time clinical program that provides emerging Child Life professionals with a broad scope of training and hands-on experience within the hospital setting. A practicum followed by an internship is part of the pathway to become a Certified Child Life Specialist. Only 51 Child Life Internship Programs throughout the United States have earned accreditation from the ACLP. More than 200 such programs exist across the U.S., Canada and abroad.

Child Life specialists are vital members of the health care team who have expertise in child development and its application to help children and their families cope with and be successful in their hospital journey. They promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities that increase normalcy. They provide emotional support for families and educate them about the needs of a child experiencing a hospital stay that can be long, stressful and sometimes painful.

The accreditation assures that a program or consortium meets the standards and requirements established for clinical preparation programs in child life as set by the ACLP.

“Obtaining the ACLP accreditation is validating to our team for the valuable, consistent work they have been doing for years in training future child life professionals. Accreditation is also a meaningful way to demonstrate to those outside the child life profession the degree to which our hospital works to impact current and future patients and families,” said Child Life Specialist Katherine Bennett, MEd, CCLS.

Vanderbilt’s Child Life Program began in 1970, with its internship program launching in 1982. Applicants to the program are enrolled in an academic institution at the time of internship and hail from all over the country. Only about four interns, two per semester, are accepted each year from a pool of more than 50 applicants each semester.

Child Life interns receive multiple skill-building and educational opportunities in medical play; psychological preparation; charting, planning, and supervising developmentally appropriate play activities; working within the health care team; family-centered care; prioritizing needs; and developmental assessment.

Established as a nonprofit organization in 1982, the ACLP advances the field of child life by establishing and maintaining professional standards, enhancing the professional growth and development of members, and advancing the credibility of the child life profession by fostering research and promoting the standards of child life practice on a national and international level, according to the ACLP website.

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