DOI: 10.55591/001c.91153 ISSN: 2694-4464

“Being a Child Life Student Has Definitely Been Difficult”: A Mixed Methods Study Exploring the Experiences of Emerging Professionals

Jessika Boles, Sarah Daniels, Sherwood Burns-Nader, Belinda Hammond, Samantha Wilkins

Although the significant effects of child life interventions have now been well-documented, few studies have examined the personal and professional characteristics of the individuals who aim to enter the child life profession. The purpose of this convergent, parallel mixed-methods study was to describe the engagement, motivation, and burnout of aspiring child life professionals. Participants completed validated assessments on academic engagement, motivation, and burnout as well as a survey and semi-structured interview about their experiences pursuing child life internship. Analyses indicated emerging child life professionals are highly engaged, mastery-approach oriented individuals who display some signs of burnout, like exhaustion. Academic engagement scores appeared to relate to personal characteristics and experiences, interactive learning experiences, and opportunities to interact with stakeholders, while motivation was related to alignment between personal characteristics and child life work, the desire to prevent distress in pediatric patients, and a hope to contribute to the profession. The cognitive and emotional loads of seeking internship placement were found to contribute to burnout, as well as difficulty accessing information, high financial costs, and limited emotional supports. Findings of the study suggest that emerging professionals need access to information, financial support, mentorship from academic and clinical professionals, and a community of support to succeed in entering the child life profession.

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