Mayo Clinic child life specialist working with child

The Child Life Specialist Internship is designed to provide hands-on experiences coupled with educational opportunities. Each intern will participate in a 16-week (640-hour) experience, under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist, to develop clinical skills in therapeutic play techniques, preparation, procedural support, assessment and education.

One week of orientation will be followed by two six-week rotations: one in an inpatient setting and the other in an outpatient setting. The remaining three weeks provide opportunities for observation and experience in clinical areas of interest.

The child life student is responsible for:

  • Planning and implementing therapeutic play activities, both one-to-one and in a group setting
  • Serving as an advocate for patients and families
  • Completing comprehensive assessments that support individualized interventions in the context of the family support system
  • Establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with patients who have diverse needs and backgrounds
  • Applying theoretical knowledge to daily clinical experiences
  • Gaining an understanding of the impact of health care encounters on patients and family members and implementing strategies to diminish the impact of medical stressors
  • Communicating observations of the patient's behavior and interactions with the child life supervisor and relevant members of the health care team
  • Managing and organizing time, while demonstrating adherence to identified deadlines
  • Attending and actively participating in educational in-services

In addition, interns participate in educational seminars throughout the 16-week experience. Topics relate directly to practice and service delivery and may include child development theory and the impact of hospitalization, assessment, documentation, and medical play, just to name a few.


Numerous resources are used during the internship to enhance learning and support ongoing growth and development. Please review the reading list below, noting the required vs. recommended readings. Most are available through the Association of Child Life Professionals online bookstore.

Required readings:

  • "The Handbook of Child Life," by Richard H. Thompson, Ph.D. (2009)
  • "Meeting Children's Psychosocial Needs Across the Healthcare Continuum," by Judy Holt Rollins, Ph.D., Rosemary Bolig and Carmel C. Mahan (2005)

Recommended readings:

  • "Psychosocial Care of Children in Hospitals: A Clinical Practice Manual," by Gaynard, et al. (1998)
  • "Child Life in Hospitals: Theory and Practice," by Richard H. Thompson and Gene Stanford (1981)
  • "Helping Children Cope With Stress," by Avis Brenner (1984)
  • "A Pediatric Bill of Rights" 12-page brochure (2002)
  • "Coping in Young Children: Early Intervention Practices to Enhance Adaptive Behavior and Resilience," by Shirley Zeitlin and G. Gordon Williamson (1994)
  • "Official Documents of the Child Life Council," by Child Life Council (2002)
  • "Making Ethical Decisions in Child Life Practice," by Child Life Council (2000)
  • "A Child in Pain: What Health Care Professionals Can Do to Help," by Leora Kuttner, Ph.D. (2010)
  • Association of Child Life Professionals Evidence-Based Practice Statements
  • "How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness," by Kathleen McCue, M.A., C.C.L.S. (1996)

The following recommended resource is not available through the Association of Child Life Professionals:

  • "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk," by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (2012)


Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences uses student evaluative tools that include:

  • Demonstration of skills
  • Self-assessment
  • Midterm and final evaluations based on the child life competencies established by the Association of Child Life Professionals
  • Immediate and ongoing feedback

Mayo Clinic's system of evaluation provides students and faculty with a comprehensive look at individual performance. This allows faculty and administrative staff to direct students who are experiencing academic difficulty to the appropriate support resources, including tutoring programs and counseling opportunities.

July 17, 2017