We never get tired of hearing about how Child Life Specialists arrived in their professions. Brenda Sturgeleski, BA, Ed, LES, CCLS, CTRS, shares how she turned a fine arts degree and passion for serving children into a Child Life career.
How did you get involved in the Child Life world? What is your role today?
I began my career with a BA in Fine Arts. I enjoyed the creative aspects and had previous experience working/teaching children; I always intended to incorporate my undergraduate education into a lifelong career as a primary education teacher. I began teaching homebound students. A short time later, I discovered Child Life and Therapeutic Recreation. I was inspired that this career encompassed creativity, an aspiration to educate, and a passion to serve children and families. I enrolled in a Leisure Sciences/Child Life/Rec. Therapy Program and completed a dual internship. I began my career and with three other individuals launched a child life department at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. After two years, I returned to my hometown and I am now a ‘professional volunteer’ in search of a full-time opportunity that will fulfill my passion to serve.
What have been some memorable moments in your career?<br />
Because we as CCLS work with sick children, most of our memorable moments are bittersweet. There are so many… But this one represents why we do what we do… It was one of my few days off at the hospital. I received a call. The RN on the telephone apologized emphatically, but told me that a patient had passed. She went on to explain that she had asked his sibling what was one thing she could bring him that would offer any sort of comfort. The RN kindly repeated his reply-“Ms. Brenda.” In that moment I knew laundry could wait. What a privilege to assist a child and family at such a pivotal moment.
What are your goals as a Child Life professional?<br />
It can be assumed that we as CCLS don’t enter the profession for fame or fortune. My goal is to continue to treat each child with a unique modus. I aim to be fully cognizant and fresh with every interaction and plant a seed when given the opportunity. I want the patient and family to remember their stay-not for the negative-but as a tool and strength-builder that improves their vital life-coping skills.
What are some small changes that doctors, nurses and healthcare administrators can make to their environments and processes in order to be more child friendly?
As child-friendly advocates I believe it is our role to create ways to edify and educate the staff. A straightforward motion is to encourage one another to ‘Simplify and Sense’. Even in strategic, fast-paced situations, the quality of care given is based on the importance of considering the patient’s perspective. Of what, and how, are we expecting the patient to cope with the pain, people, voices and environment? Is there a simpler way we can filter what they feel, see and hear?
Offering the bare-bone principle of evaluating tactile/factual information assists the learner and unifies the staff.