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Child Life Program

Child Life Donations

We are very grateful for the kind donations we receive for the Child Life Program from generous donors, which help us run the program and make hospital experiences a little easier for kids and families. If you are interested in supporting our program by donating toys or other items, take a look at our general wish list and our Amazon wish list.

For infection control and patient safety reasons, we cannot accept any used items. If you would like to make a monetary donation to support our program, you may email Alyssa Garcia, MS, CCLS, GC-C.

​Children and their families who experience injury, illness or hospitalization often need help coping with fear and anxiety resulting from unfamiliar surroundings and events, stressful medical procedures and changes in daily routines.

The certified child life specialists at UC San Diego Health care for:

  • Patients from newborns to age 21
  • Children being treated in our burn center or trauma center
  • Children who are having a surgical procedure
  • Children of patients who are hospitalized or who are receiving palliative care

Services for Patients and Families

We take a family-centered approach to care, working closely with a multidisciplinary team to ensure that the social, emotional and psychological needs are met for pediatric patients and their siblings and families, as well as for the young family members of adult patients.

Support for patients and family members 21 years of age or younger include:

  • Explaining procedures and diagnoses in language that children understand
  • Preparing children for medical procedures
  • Providing distraction and emotional support for children during medical procedures
  • Helping children enhance their coping skills through activities
  • Providing creative outlets for children to express their feelings
  • Providing grief support
  • Encouraging play through developmentally supportive activities
  • Providing burn and trauma inpatient and outpatient services
  • Offering palliative care inpatient and outpatient services

Our child life specialists are trained practitioners with a background in child development, psychology and counseling. Our goal is to minimize stress and anxiety through evidence-based interventions and support services that meet the unique emotional needs of children.

School Re-Entry Program for Pediatric Burn Patients

In addition to providing support while in the hospital, we also assist children with the transition from the hospital setting back to the classroom. To help ease the move, our team will make a presentation to your child's classmates and teachers to educate them about your child's medical condition and help them understand burns and burn prevention.

This allows the school community to gain an understanding for your child's situation so that they can help make the return to class as comfortable as possible. You and your child can decide whether or not to attend this presentation.

Prior to your child's return, we will contact the school to make sure all of the proper accommodations are in place and make recommendations if needed.

Child Life Community Services

Outreach Programs

The Child Life Program offers education day programs for children in various types of school settings, including preschool, K-12, home-school, after-school programs and camps.

Our Burn and Injury Prevention and Fire Education Program helps kids learn how to be safe at home and at school. Presentations are implemented in fun and interactive ways using story time and activities such as “crawl-under-the-smoke” exercises to enrich children’s learning.

In addition to our flagship outreach services, we can also provide support programs for children who have experienced a traumatic event (natural disasters, community violence, etc.), the death of a loved one, or a significant new diagnosis in their family. When something scary happens, someone special in a child’s life dies, or a child is injured or has a new diagnosis, caring adults may be unsure of ways to best support the child, both emotionally and socially.

Our Child Life team can help by talking to the child’s peers about the event, death or loss, or diagnosis in a gentle, honest and developmentally appropriate way to promote learning and understanding. We also teach peers how to best support each other during grief and hard times while bringing a sense of safety back to the classroom.

Education presentations are always customized to meet the unique developmental needs of the audience.

Contact our Child Life team by phone at (619) 471-9458. Or email Kathryn Hamelin, LMFT, RPT, CCLS, for more information or to schedule a prevention education day for your child or program.

Information for Child Life Students

Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted our student program. All rotations are currently moving forward as planned and outlined below.

Child Life Training Programs

Due to the limited manpower of our small program, we kindly ask that prospective applicants please review all internship and practicum information and requirements in their entirety prior to reaching out for questions/clarification.

UC San Diego Health's Child Life Program provides educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in the field of child life. Our program is small, so Child Life interns and practicum students are quickly integrated as valuable members of the support team.

Candidates must be creative, dependable and able to function both independently and as a team. There have been countless innovations and developments within the Child Life Program at UC San Diego Health that are the direct result of the hard work and creativity of our students.

Below is information on our Child Life Internship and Child Life Practicum.
Applications for both programs can be mailed to:

Child Life Program
c/o Kathryn Hamelin, LMFT, RPT, CCLS
402 Dickinson St. Suite 2-260
San Diego, CA 92103

Child Life Internship

Common Child Life Internship Application
The internship application and all supporting documents must be submitted by mail. Application package with form and instructions on how to complete it

Our Child Life internship program is a 600-hour clinical internship under the direct supervision of a certified child life specialist. Intern experiences include time in the burn unit, trauma unit, burn outpatient clinics and palliative care services.

Child Life intern responsibilities at UC San Diego Health include distraction and accompaniment during procedures or dressing changes, preparation for surgery and other procedures, assistance with schoolwork, school reintegration, grief and bereavement support, and facilitation of therapeutic, medical, and diversional play for patients 21 years of age and younger.

Additionally, interns are involved in community outreach and education programming, burn survivor field trips, support groups, and providing support and education to the young family members of our pediatric and adult patients. Interns are also required to complete assignments such as a weekly journal, case study and final project as assigned.

UC San Diego Health accepts graduate-level internship candidates from affiliated universities. At this time, our affiliated schools are Loma Linda University and Azusa Pacific University, and as of September 2021, Eastern Washington University and Mills College. Additionally, we accept internship candidates year-round (Winter/Spring, Summer and Fall).

As Child Life interns are required to complete a substantial project by the end of the internship term, we are unable to consider students who plan to be enrolled in Thesis during their clinical time.

Our program follows all of the recommended application deadlines set by the Association of Child Life Professionals. Applications that are incomplete or are received after the deadline will not be considered.

Application requirements for Child Life Internship

Child Life Practicum

Our Child Life Practicum program is a 130-hour clinical experience spanning eight weeks. The program gives students the chance to experience the child life profession and gain insight into the unique, individual needs of children and their families in the hospital setting by observing a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) in settings such as the burn unit, trauma unit, burn outpatient clinics and palliative care services.

Responsibilities include shadowing and assisting CCLS and intern(s) in distraction and accompaniment during procedures or dressing changes, preparation for surgery and other procedures, school work assistance, school reintegration, and facilitation of therapeutic, medical, and diversional play for patients 21 years of age and younger.

Additional responsibilities include various office tasks such as toy sanitization and organization. Completion of weekly assignments is also required.

UC San Diego Health accepts practicum applications from those who at least have a bachelor's degree (either completed or in progress) and who meet additional requirements outlined below. Applicants need not be enrolled in or affiliated with any educational program at time of applying. Additionally, we continue to accept practicum students each round (Winter/Spring, Summer, and Fall). Although dates vary, the practicum start dates generally align with the standard internship timeline set by ACLP.

Child Life Practicum application deadlines mirror the Child Life Internship application deadlines set by the Association of Child Life Professionals.

Application requirements for Child Life Practicum
Application for Child Life Practicum

Alyssa Garcia, MS, CCLS, GC-C
Practicum Coordinator

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