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What is this career?

The profession of child life was created to help children and their families navigate the emotionally and physically demanding process of coping with hospitalization. Child life specialists use their knowledge of child development and developmentally appropriate interventions to educate, prepare and support children through a number of challenging experiences, particularly those related to diagnosis of, treatment for, and recovery from chronic or acute illness. As part of multidisciplinary health care teams, child life professionals advocate for the special needs of children and their families. Child life specialists provide children with opportunities to engage in normal play and recreational activities that promote growth, development and feelings of success and fulfillment. They promote the role of families as full partners on the health care team, providing information, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. Perhaps most of all, they promote the philosophy of patient- and family-centered care, educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress. Check out a video about Child Life Services at Hasbro Childrenís Hospital in Providence!

Job Outlook

According to the U.S Department of Labor, employment in psychology is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, itís important to note that bachelorís degree holders will have limited job prospects because of heavy competition.

In particular, the number of child life jobs continues to rise. Virtually every children's hospital across North America has child life staff. The Child Life Council posts job opportunities to members on its website and there are usually 15 to 30 jobs posted. However, because most childrenís hospitals are located in large, urban areas, it might be necessary to relocate to find a child life specialist position.

Opportunities & Challenges

Child Life Specialists can find themselves with deeply rewarding work, as helping individuals overcome lifeís challenges can be fulfilling. At the same time, the work can entail emotional stress, so there is the risk of burnout.