When asked to write this I immediately had feelings of joy, excitement, and delight. My name is Keeley Machen Schares and I just summed up on what child life is in the above three words. My child life journey started during my undergraduate studies at Louisiana Tech University. At the time, I had no clue that I had chosen to enroll in a university that had a child life program, but thankfully after hopping around from major to major I found my passion within the child life classes. Mrs. Anita Pumphrey, Certified Child Life Specialist, was the academic child life coordinator at the time and she inspired me to chase my dreams of being a Certified Child Life Specialist. Upon graduation from Louisiana Tech University, I decided to attend graduate school at Texas State University to earn a master’s degree in human development and family science with a concentration in child life. While completing my graduate studies, I gained lifelong friends that now work around the world as Certified Child Life Specialists.
Fast forward to my clinical work, I was hired after the completion of my child life internship at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas. Talk about a dream! I worked within the emergency department for two years and then transitioned to the gastrointestinal unit. During my time at Children’s, I learned how important the role of a Certified Child Life Specialist is. We are the ones who can be a glimpse of light to families in their darkest days. No day is the same for a child life specialist. I would sit with families while they waited for their child to receive a liver transplant, I educated parents on how to play with their infant who will go home with a nasogastric tube, and on the same day I would also celebrate a patient’s fifth birthday, organize a family lunch to promote normalization, or engage a patient in a scavenger hunt to encourage ambulating. My work inside the hospital walls is irreplaceable, the families I supported taught me what resilience looks like, and the friends I gained will last forever. My love for child life, that joy, excitement, and delight I feel is now seen inside classrooms. I have recently transitioned to the child life instructor at Louisiana Tech University. As a child life specialist, you never stop advocating. You advocate for families, for funding, for the medical staff, and for yourself. I love that now I get to advocate for the importance of child life and for students. My passion is child life, full circle of pure joy, excitement, and delight.