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Child Life Services


Program Description

The practicum is an introductory Hospital/Child Life experience. It provides students the opportunity to gain insight and exposure to the child life profession. Practicums also help students understand the special and unique needs of hospitalized children and their families through play opportunities. At Rady Children’s Hospital, practicum students are assigned to inpatient and outpatient settings in which to complete their requirements. Students are closely supervised by our staff of certified child life specialists. Feedback and evaluation are provided throughout the practicum to help students gain skills and increase comfort levels.

Please note: We will not be offering a practicum for the Fall of 2019. We will resume in Spring of 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do you offer practicums?

Fall and spring semesters.

Couldn’t I just volunteer in a hospital?

Volunteering in a hospital is an excellent way to see if you would like the work environment and gain exposure to hospital routines. Volunteering, however, does not count as a Child Life practicum. Practicums are more structured, provide direct supervision by Child Life staff, and have a set of requirements to be completed. Most child life internships require that students have completed a practicum first.

Do I have to know a lot about childhood illnesses and diseases?

The practicum is an introductory course, which focuses on the child’s development and emotional reaction to hospitalization and the medical experience. The foundation of play in a healthcare setting will be explored.

Who will be supervising me?

You will be under the direct supervision of a certified child life specialist during each rotation. At no time will students be working completely independent of a child life specialist. Students do not fill in for staff members’ vacations, sick days, etc.

What is the role of the Practicum Clinical Coordinator?

You will be assigned a certified child life specialist who will be responsible for setting up your schedule, assigning requirement due dates, facilitating the orientation and overseeing all practicum details. This person will meet with you to help insure that requirements are being met and that you are progressing in a satisfactory manner. The coordinator will provide you with written and verbal feedback on assignments and experiences. The coordinator will collaborate with your university department head.

Practicum Schedule

Our practicum is a semester long course in which students complete a minimum of 100 hours in the hospital. The student’s schedule is set at the beginning of the semester, before the practicum begins. Students typically complete eight  hours a week Monday through Friday for approximately 14 weeks. When setting up a student’s schedule, we require that each block of time be at least four hours long to ensure a quality experience.

* Attendance is extremely important to ensure the 100 hours is completed.

Practicum Assignments

Students will be expected to complete the following requirements. Due dates will be set at the beginning of the semester:

  1. Daily journal entries
  2. Article abstracts
  3. Formal observations
  4. Plan and implement developmentally appropriate activities
  5. Complete self-evaluations and program evaluations
  6. Hospitalization observations and reactions
  7. Other requirements as assigned


Applicants must:

  1. Be enrolled in, working toward, and have completed coursework that will prepare them to sit for the child life exam (such as child development, theories of child development, etc.) which is verified by transcripts from all institutions attended.
  2. We require that students have completed a minimum of at least two supervised experiences with children (i.e., preschool lab, infant lab, volunteer experience, employment, etc.). Additional experience working with children with special needs or ill/injured children is preferred but not required.
  3. Students also need to have a strong academic background in human growth and development with a GPA of at least 3.0 in major.

If you are receiving college credit for your practicum, you must be currently enrolled in one of the following universities associated with Rady Children’s:

  • Azusa Pacific University
  • Loma Linda University
  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • San Diego State University
  • University of La Verne

A complete application must include the following:

  1. Practicum Checklist
  2. Typed Practicum Application
  3. Typed Practicum Questionnaire
  4. List of Relevant Experience Working With Children/Adolescents
  5. List of Child Life Relevant Coursework
  6. Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  7. College or university transcript(s). Please send a separate transcript for each institution.  Must indicate GPA. (Student copies accepted)
  8. Two Letters of Recommendation – at least one who has directly observed and can assess your work with children, parents, and professionals.  Recommendations can either be completed on the Student Recommendation Form or be a paragraph style narration and address your specific knowledge and skills (no photocopies or e-mails).

If possible, please include all documents in one envelope to help ensure that no documentation is lost.  You may send your recommendation letters and/or transcripts directly to the practicum coordinator.  However, the applicant is the one responsible for lost or late documentation.

A selection committee of child life specialists will review all applications and will select qualified applicants to interview. Interviews may be conducted in person or over the telephone. Students will then be notified in writing whether or not they have been accepted. If the Practicum is being completed for college credit, the student must register for the appropriate field work course through their college/university.

Application Due Dates

Applications must be submitted to the address at the bottom of the page and must be postmarked according to the following schedule.

*Due to the number of applications we receive, we are unable to verify receipt of your application materials. Applicants who desire confirmation are encouraged to send their application with tracking through the USPS or FedEx.

Practicum Offer and Acceptance Dates

Practicum Session Application Deadlines Initial Offer Dates Acceptance Dates
Fall May 5 2nd Tuesday of June Wednesday
Spring September 25 4th Tuesday of October Wednesday

*Applicant must accept or decline offer within 48 hours of notification

Application: (Word Doc) | (PDF)

For more information on the Child Life Practicum, please contact:

Practicum Coordinator, Danni Leonard, 858-966-1700, ext. 225208

Applications should be mailed to:

Attn: Child Life
Practicum Coordinator
MC 5126
3020 Children’s Way
San Diego, CA 92123

We reserve the right to update this application.