Friday, June 13, 2008

Leslie, the child life specialist

Tonight I finished my recertification application documenting all my professional development hours for the last 5 years as a child life specialist. It is busy to keep up as an SAHM, but it is a part of who I am, and I get to use my skills almost daily to help children and families around me (like that great projection play therapy I was doing with my 3 year old and play bugs yesterday!).

I was really lucky to have great graduate and undergraduate programs at BYU. I was incredibly lucky to do my child life clinical training at the best place on earth-- the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore with the pioneers in field of child life. Recently listening to a lecture by my former supervisor, Joy Goldberger, I realized what an incredibly masterful mind I learned under. She has an amazing ability to anticipate and reach the most subconscious psychological needs of children. After my internship, I was offered a fellowship to stay on and do specialty work in PICU and oncology, but at the time turned it down because I was dating my now husband, and had my 2nd yr. of grad school waiting for me. Sometimes I wish I could have done it, I know I would have learned incredible things. After finishing grad school I loved doing child life at UCSF (nothing like a quiet night in the teen room watching the fog roll in past the golden gate bridge!)

As a child life specialist I have worked with thousands of children across Asia and Africa on Operation Smile Medical Missions (that is the hardest thing I have to give up as a mother of very small children, is packing 2 suitcases full of toys and supplies and spending 2 weeks in an exotic locale helping children prepare for surgeries- it relaly is my idea of a good time!)

For those of you who don't know about child life we are best known for running the playrooms for children who are patients in hospitals. However If you have worked with a really good child life specialist you know they are not he "glorified babysitters" they are sometimes seen as. Child Life Specialists really do alot of amazing work providing psychological preparation and procedural support. They are superb at identifying psychosocial and emotional needs and they are masterful at planning coping strategies for anything stressful. They are great at ensuring family centered care and advocating for the developmental needs of children. We are also trained to work with trauma, grief, loss, and bereavement. In a day we might prepare a child for what to expect in a liver biopsy, help a child get through a lumbar puncture, or work with a child getting through the boredom of a chemo cycle and help a one year old child in traction for 7 weeks to to get outside and feel the fresh air. It is creative, difficult but enjoyable work.

It's funny sometimes to think back on those chapters in my life, because no one now knows me as Leslie, the child life specialist or Leslie, the college instructor- yet so many people have only every known me as that. My life has always been full of incredible opportunities, that always seem to fall directly in my lap and I truly have been blessed to have had many amazing opportunities.

I am looking forward to next years child life conference because it is in Boston, and for 3 days I will get to put back on my Leslie, the child life specialist hat, and be reminded of one of my great loves.
(The pictures above gives some glimpses of Leslie the child life specialist on Op smile medical missions, in my makeshift playrooms getting up close and personal with hard dirty floors of hospital hallways around the world-- you think you're house gets dirty (YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!) here are common sights from my world--a child with a bilateral cleft lip in Davao, Philippines; me with one of my favorite darling babies in agadir, morocco; me preparing mothers and infants before surgery in Nakuru, Kenya; row 2 helping a little Berber boy in Marrakesh learn about the medical equipment for his surgery, doing puppet play with a fearful child with an encephalocele in the philippines; in my playroom in Siberia with 2 children from a local orphanage; me with sammy one of my patients receive surgery for burns in Kenya- he wrote the most touching essay about how grateful he was for his surgery because his enemies could no longer bully him about his burn scars) This might give you a feeling for why I am so passionate about getting involved and doing more in the world around us!
1. a profession I love
2. traveling the world
3. getting my hours done for the next 5 yrs!

13 comments:

Sarah said...

Wonderful!! Thanks for sharing!

Lee said...

Dude Les, you are just awesome. That is great, and I bet you do a fantastic job.

Trueman twins said...

What incredible journeys your occupation has taken you on. Your knowledge, calmness, desire and dedication to children not only blesses your life, but the lives of so many others! Thank you so much for sharing!

Maclaine said...

could you email me? maclaine_bliss@hotmail.com

Amber said...

Wow, I had no idea! What a wonderful and rewarding career path to follow!

sherry said...

You brought back a lot of memories...especially preparing for those medical missions. Toy shopping, sewing and packing...wow...nobody can pack a suitcase quite like you. I am looking forward to tending the troops while you attend the Child Life Conf. - just keep sharing what you learn and touching hearts and lives! We love you!

LL said...

you are a SAINT!

Christy said...

I am so glad to know you as a friend and sister in the gospel, I've benefited many times from your expertise, along with many many others.

Tamlynn said...

Wow! I'm glad you shared this. Incredible experiences.

swimmingmom said...

Your post gave me chills and goosebumps! I have gained a much deeper appreciation for the field of Child Life over the past few years knowing you. I wish I had known more about the field before. Thanks for always sharing tidbits of info. with me. I've been thinking about our conversation Fri. all weekend (video games, play etc).

Cassie said...

Hi,
Just wanted to say thanks for sharing about the important work you do. I, too, am a CCLS. I found your blog while searching "child life and medical missions". I would like to get involved with an organization such as Operation Smile. Could you email me with info on how you orginially got involved? Thanks!

cball84@gmail.com

Whitney Sweet said...

I am going to be a senior in College, and I am double majoring in Psychology and Early Childhood Edu. My dream ever since being hospitalized when I was in middle school, is to be a child life specialist. I know that I will have to get an internship before getting certified. Any suggestions, or how did you make the transition from college to becoming a child life specialist? Thank you so much for sharing, I very much enjoyed reading about your travels. Medical missions sound very exciting and I am very intrigued.

Taylor Turley said...

I am currently enrolled in BYU and I really want to become a child life specialist. I love traveling and working with kids and want to know what steps you took to become what you are. What did you get your graduate in? How did you get such a great internship and how long were you in your internship for?? I would love if you could email me because I have yet to meet someone doing exactly what I want to do! My email is tay.janae.turley@gmail.com