Child life practicum delivers amid COVID-19 pandemic


COVID-19 nearly canceled this summer’s field-based practicum for Bloomsburg University’s child life specialist program.

Instead, the 28 students made history by going virtual with their 120-hour experience with Camp Victory in Millville and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, United Kingdom. It was a first of its kind virtual child life practicum, according to Michael Patte, professor of teaching and learning and child life specialist.

“Both face-to-face experiences were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patte said. “With some creative thinking, Colleen Cameron (instructor of teaching and learning and certified child life specialist) conceptualize offering the practicum virtually.”

In fact, the virtual option may have proven even more worthwhile according to Amanda Kline, a medical imaging major who is pursuing minors in child life and gerontology.

“Initially, I planned on traveling abroad for this practicum in London,” said Kline, who has volunteered abroad twice with MEDLIFE during her time at Bloomsburg. “Once I found out there would be an online option I was totally on board! Although working hands-on with children and child life specialists at Camp Victory and Great Ormond Street Hospital was ideal, this online experience allowed us to connect with both sites.”

Patte said one of the practicum requirements was creating and implementing various play plans spanning a variety of developmental domains (expressive arts, music and movement, nature, and mindfulness).

“For Camp Victory, our students produced play plans in hard copy format and then create videos of themselves implementing these activities which are then uploaded to Camp Victory Facebook Page,” Patte said. “Then campers and families could view and participate in the activities anytime that was convenient.”

According to Patte, practicum students implemented their play plans with Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children synchronously, in real-time with the children and families.

“Because of coronavirus, observations and volunteer hours are nearly impossible to obtain, but we actually had the opportunity to gain experience virtually,” Kline said. “We worked with a variety of patients of different ages, developmental stages, diagnoses and units. Every play worker provided different activities and perspectives that really helped me develop a sense of what it looks like to work with children and families in medical settings.”

This experience gave Kline a taste of what to expect in her future career field.

“I’ve always wanted to work in healthcare with children,” Kline said. “Having a clear understanding of how to work and communicate with children in a medical setting will be applicable in (my field).”

Adding to the practicum learning environment, according to Kline, were several professional development speakers from all over the world who work with children, including the famed Patch Adams, as well as a virtual play conference to close up the practicum.

“Hearing from a variety of professionals who work with children in hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages, schools, etc. has personally helped me broaden my view on the child life field,” Kline said. “She added, “This (child life) minor has helped me have a greater understanding of childhood development, the importance of play, and had the chance to connect with a variety of professionals in the child life field and beyond.”