As March continues, so does Child Life Month! Starlight knows that there are so many wonderful child life professionals working at our hospital partners. That is why we are honored to spotlight the amazing Kerri, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) at Greenwood Leflore Hospital. We are celebrating three years of partnership with Greenwood Leflore Hospital, which is home to many medically underserved and vulnerable communities.
Kerri is the only CCLS at her facility with 37 pediatric and NICU patients; therefore, she plays a critical role in helping these sick kids cope with hospitalization through education and play.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Kerri and find out more about her love for the child life field, how she uses Starlight programs to deliver smiles to her patients, and what her favorite part of her job is!
Why did you become a CCLS?
I actually stumbled upon my career path in high school. We had a college student come substitute our class close to Christmas break during my senior year of 1994. She was telling us about her major, and I thought child life sounded really interesting. I knew I worked well with children, and working in the medical field sounded exciting, too. Once I gained exposure to practicing in the field of Child Life through practicums and internships, I found it fascinating to see all of the theories we study being applied to each individual patient. Every child and situation are different, and I enjoy being able to help them during an often-stressful moment in their lives.
What’s your favorite part of being a CCLS?
My favorite part is working hands-on and being present with my patients and their families. So many times, I am not only preparing and educating my patients but their families as well. To be able to see my patient’s confidence grow from the tools and information they receive and to be able to connect the dots or clear up any misconceptions about their hospitalization/treatment is amazing.
What part of your job brings you the most happiness?
Being able to see an immediate impact of my services brings me the most happiness. Whether it is preparation, distraction, education, coping, or play, I can immediately tell if I’m having a positive impact. Seeing my patient successfully master a procedure we prepared for, watching them understand and learn how to cope with a specific disease process, or simply seeing them actually enjoy adapting to an unfamiliar environment is so rewarding.
What does happiness mean to you?
Happiness to me is having the support of my wonderful family and having a job that I truly love to come to every day. The quote “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” has always resonated with me. I try to instill that into my own child and every young person who is beginning to think of a career. Find what you are passionate about and figure out a way to make a career out of it.
What’s your favorite Starlight program?
I have such a hard time narrowing it down to just one! Starlight Deliveries has been so vital to our program. The items we receive are able to be used for play, distraction, coping, and normalization of the hospital environment. The ability to give something tangible that the patient can take with them when they leave helps to leave a lasting positive impact on their hospital experience.
How do Starlight Programs bring happiness to your patients?
Starlight programs allow our facility to help normalize the hospital environment with familiar sights and toys to even our tiniest of patients. Giving a scared child a character hospital gown just for them can instantly change their perception about how their stay may be. I enjoy seeing our patients so excited to use Starlight Virtual Reality not only for entertainment but also to incorporate teaching, exploring the world, and learning new skills such as guided meditation. It’s not hard to imagine the delight and surprise of finding out the hospital has your favorite movie, toy, or activity in such an unfamiliar place. Items like those are so comforting to our patients and their caregivers. Children may not always remember why they were at the hospital, but they remember how we made them feel special and even some fun they had during their stay.