Certified Child Life Specialist?


I am looking into becoming a CCLS, I was just wondering, as nurses, specifically pediatric nurses, what's your opinion on that profession?

I'm 23 years old, I was born with a boat load full of defects and I've been dealing with them my entire life, colostomy, mitrofanoff, spina bifida, etc. I've always been amazing around kids and I've always wanted to work in a hospital where I could use my medical situation to help others. My parents always suggested that I become a nurse, let me say, I have the UTMOST RESPECT for you nurses, I could never do your job. I have just never had any interest in becoming a nurse, maybe it's the fact that I'm always afraid of screwing something up and always second guessing myself, a big no-no, I would assume, in the nursing world. I know my place and nursing isn't it.

Child life seems like a really good fit for me though, I just want to know that I'm not going to be looked down on by nurses and doctors, because let's face it, y'all are top of the food chain in the hospital IMO. While doing some research on the profession I came across a post on another website and the person basically said that hospitals don't need CCLS, that volunteers could do that job for free. Is that true? Do people really feel that way?

I'm trying to figure out if this is something that I should spend a lot of money on an education for, or get a degree in business and just volunteer my time at the local children's hospital. I feel very strongly about it though, that's what's making my decision so hard.

Give me your opinions, good and bad. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this (sorry!).

My daughter was critically ill as a baby and spent 5 weeks inpatient at a huge medical center, 3 of those in the ICU. We LOVED the child life specialists that took the time to help us make sure our older son's needs were met. One of the CCLS was physically impaired and she was definitely the most popular. Her attitude was outstanding and all of the kids and parents loved her.

Thank you, Jackie.

My late teens and twenties started out pretty rocky due to health issues and I wasn't able to attend college with my friends, I've had a hard time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and I've become pretty depressed about the whole matter. The other day "child life specialist" just literally popped into my head, I have no idea why, because as best as I can remember, I have never had one come and talk to me. I believe in God and I believe that I AM this way for a reason, maybe, hopefully, this is MY reason. Something about this just feels right I can't explain it but just the thought of working with kids in this way makes me happy and excited for the future.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 46 years experience.

As a career, there are VERY few jobs and MANY applicants. (Our specialty children's hospital laid off Child Life workers a while back.)

That's the biggest thing I'm afraid of. If the hospital needs to cut back on spending somewhere I would assume the first to go would be something like a CLS. Maybe that's just a risk I have to take though?


789 Posts

I would check with your local children's hospital to see what the job prospects look like and what they require as far as training. Our child life specialists are valuable team members and we could not get through the day without them. We are equal partners in the care of children.

In addition to specific degrees, our facility requires additional specialized training. Our child life specialists are highly respected and are terribly missed when they are not there.

As far as a volunteer being able to do the same job, I say maybe in some cases but not in most. Good luck to you OP in whatever field you decide to pursue.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

1 Article; 7,349 Posts

Specializes in Pedi. Has 16 years experience.

What meanmaryjean says is true. Child Life Specialists are fantastic but their job prospects are rather limited. They can work in pediatric hospitals and some pediatric specialty clinics (I have friends who've worked in outpatient dialysis and Oncology clinics) but that's about it. Hospitals are about the only place for them. Places where other pediatric practitioners might have job opportunities (such as schools, pediatrician's offices, early intervention programs, etc) generally do not employ Child Life Specialists.

I wouldn't worry about being looked down on by nurses. Physicians are another story. Sometimes procedures have to be done and the nurse feels it would be helpful for the child life specialist to be present. The physician doesn't want to wait and doesn't want another person in the room. "We don't need that", he says, if he even knows the role of a Child Life Specialist since he's more likely than not a resident just passing through. I've also seen that kind of resistance with EEG techs and IV nurses. Some would rather just hold the child down and get what needs to be done, done.

NicuGal, MSN, RN

2,743 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PACU. Has 30 years experience.

We love Child Life where I work. They help out in NICU by bringing age appropriate toys for our older babies, they come on the days our discharge classes are held to hold a little 2 hour playtime for any siblings that have to come.

It it is true that the job market can be limited, some positions are funded by grants, like our discharge class time, but CLS really are awesome. The are so needed in peds.

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

The first hospital I worked at had a good size population of adults with CF; of these, many were in their upper teens. The CCLSs were awesome with developing "normal teen" activities for them. They were in a unique spot with not technically being peds pts anymore, but developmentally not quite adults either.

We also saw the occasional adult CF pt who was able to have children, and many younger brain cancer pts with children (the big population on my floor was neuro). They were wonderful with helping the children understand what was going on with their parents.

Job prospects might not be the best, but nobody would do it if nobody was willing to take a chance on it. What about dual majoring, so you have a plan B? You're young yet. I started college as a music major, and quite a few had a 2nd major in a science or foreign language education, because employment prospects for musicians are iffy. (Hence why I decided NOT to finish my BFA/BM!)

KelRN215, BSN, RN

1 Article; 7,349 Posts

Specializes in Pedi. Has 16 years experience.
The first hospital I worked at had a good size population of adults with CF; of these, many were in their upper teens. The CCLSs were awesome with developing "normal teen" activities for them. They were in a unique spot with not technically being peds pts anymore, but developmentally not quite adults either.

Off topic but I find this interesting because, where I'm from, the CF patients NEVER leave the pediatric hospital. Literally never. People with CF in their 30s, 40s and 50s continue to be treated at the Children's Hospital. Certainly you would never find a teen with CF at any of the adult hospitals around here.

RNperdiem, RN

4,580 Posts

Has 14 years experience.

My sister worked as a recreation therapist in a children's facility and worked around child life specialists. The trouble is these jobs just do not pay well and are treated as a frill that gets cut when the budget is tight.

As a young person, try to find out how much you would get paid and what kind of lifestyle that would give you.

My sister became an x-ray tech after several underpaid years as a rec therapist and loves her new job.

JustBeachyNurse, LPN

1 Article; 13,952 Posts

Specializes in Complex pedi to LTC/SA & now a manager. Has 13 years experience.

Recreational therapy is generally not reimbursable by insurance however child life may be especially if a therapeutic nature can be documented.

Many major hospitals have been increasing their pediatric specialties and realizing the positive impact of child life. I could give you dozens of examples of friends & friends of friends that I helped coordinate with child life for their special needs children that the impact was life altering. Several do a minor in art or music to bring additional therapeutic (mental health coverage often covers art & music therapy. A good therapist that is child life plus music therapy or art therapy can practice independently and may be contacted by children's behavioral health or schools. ). It's hard work and a lot of networking. Going into this with eyes wide open is a good thing. Having a credits in a second discipline can only help you if a plan B is needed. Good luck.