Child Life Program

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:

  • Children being treated in our burn center or having a surgical procedure
  • Children of patients who have been hospitalized, are undergoing surgery, or 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, homeschool, 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 for more information or to schedule a prevention education day for your child or program.

Information for Child Life Students

Child Life Training Programs

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:

Kate Hamelin, MA, BSW, CCLS
Child Life Program Manager
200 West Arbor Drive
5th Floor Burn Unit
San Diego, California, 92103

Child Life Internship

Common Child Life Internship Application
The internship application and all supporting documents must be submitted by mail. Tips and instructions on completing the Common Child Life Internship application

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 only accepts graduate-level internship candidates from affiliated universities.

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 the UC San Diego Health Child Life Internship

Child Life Practicum

Our Child Life Practicum program is a 150-hour clinical experience spanning 10 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.

The practicum is open to students at either the graduate or undergraduate level. UC San Diego Health accepts both affiliated and non-affiliated students for practicum.

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

Application requirements for the UC San Diego Health Child Life Practicum
Application For Child Life Practicum

Child Life Donations

The Child Life Program at UC San Diego Health is exceptionally grateful for the kind donations we receive from generous donors, which help us run our 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, you can take a look at our general wish list and our Amazon Wish List.

For infection control and patient safety reasons, we are unable to accept any used items.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to support our program, you may contact Alyssa Garcia, CCLS.

​Contact Us

Location

Hillcrest