“Every time I explain it to someone who asks what I do, they respond saying the same thing ‘Wow! That is such a wonderful thing.’ I realize again every time they say that, their right. This is a wonderful job,” says Christine Marcoux, a recent Auburn faculty addition in the College of Human Sciences.
Christine has studied to be a Child Life Specialist, a career that has gained attention and publicity in recent years. US News referred to Child Life as the “Best-Kept-Secret Career” in 2008.
The role of a Child Life Specialist is to “Be someone who helps a child cope with stressful situations. Not only in a hospital situation but also can include other stressing situations a child encounters. Child life specialists can provide play that functions for a kid to feel normal, addresses developmental issues, lessens fears and anxieties, and also aids with children in learning diagnosis and treatment. Child life is involved in teaching, surgery preparation, and supporting families, offering general coping support to families and siblings and dealing with bereavement,” says Dr. Christine Marcoux.
Christine began her schooling studying to be a teacher and envisioned herself in the preschool classroom. After student teaching she realized it wasn't the right fit and she found interest in child life. Through practicum and internship hours she learned the joys and struggles of the career and confirmed it was what she wanted to do. Marcoux then interned with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Medical University of South Carolina. Summer of 2010 Marcoux came to Auburn to teach and add child life experience to the staff. Marcoux is teaching “Child Life Advanced Seminar” a course that focuses on the application of child life and practicing skills necessary in the career.
Marcoux contacted Auburn and saw a good fit to join the program. “The program has the vision to be something wonderful,” according to Marcoux. She is currently a Child Life Specialist in Montgomery and having a certified Child Life Specialist on staff she considers to potentially be an important aspect to student’s further success.
Marcoux has brought the realities and experiences of the workplace to the classroom. Students grow from testimony of real life examples translated to the classroom. Students are engaged in valuable hands on real life experience and grasp what really happens in the hospital with Marcoux's teaching.
Auburn Senior Lauren Stone is graduating in May with a Child Life Concentration Degree. She emphasized the professors’ extensive background in child development but observed a need in her time at Auburn. “It would have helped to have direct advice from a Child Life Specialist to gain more practical hands on experience,” says Stone. Stone discussed how Auburn students are respected for their extensive knowledge in philosophy and development but she would gain from day to day experiences.
A thrilling career that Stone is embarking on she realizes that it is not for everyone and is very challenging. “Everybody loves the idea of child life but very few can handle it,” says Stone.
Those seeking a potential career in child life need to be motivated and driven individuals, and emotionally stable as they endure the hard realities of the hospital. A Child Life Specialist must be a good communicator, and be passionate advocators for children.
Child life is challenging to get through in the four-year curriculum. It requires certain prerequisites prior to practicum and internship experience and can be a stressful goal to meet. Auburn faculty in the department genuinely cares and wants students to succeed and understand the difficulties that come with the major. Faculty in the department often know students on a personal level, and further more according to Marcoux’s experience so far, wherever you go faculty, students, and staff all go above and beyond and are friendly and willing to help.
Stone advises those who potentially are interested in the career field to gain experience now and learn as much as possible. “I wish I would have known all the numbers of opportunities available to gain more experience doing what I love. Volunteer at a hospital, work at a camp for sick children, however possible expose yourself to the realities of the career and decide,” says Stone.
According to Stone it was the "perfect-fit", but she encourages all to find your fit and do so by seeking experience. “The hospital can be a scary place for adults, and we have the capacity to understand and communicate and children can’t communicate on an adult level. You take away the ability to communicate and as a child the hospital is even scarier. Providing someone to meet on a child's level and help children understand and have an easier time is essential,” says Marcoux.
Child life is a growing career and a unique role to play in the hospital. A Child Life Specialist is a rewarding career but one that takes on a number of challenges. Child life aids in the hospital and prepares children to be successful through out their life. Stone says “We want to give children coping strategies not only to benefit them in the hospital, but also provide them with the ability to translate it in to real life and learn to cope with challenges they encounter that are hard in life.” Child life encourages the overall success of children and teaches them skills to overcome challenges they face.