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-San Diego, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

When do you offer practicums?

Fall and spring semesters

How long does it take to complete a practicum?

Our practicum is a semester-long course in which students complete a minimum of 120 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 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 insure a quality experience.

*Attendance is extremely important to ensure the 120 hours is completed.

What are the practicum requirements for the semester?

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

  • Weekly journal entries
  • Weekly article readings
  • Formal observations
  • Plan and implement developmentally appropriate activities
  • Complete self-evaluations and program evaluations
  • Hospitalization observations and reactions
  • Other requirements as assigned

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.

What are the practicum student’s responsibilities during the semester?

  • To follow the department and hospital policies and procedures.
  • To complete all requirements within the time frame assigned.
  • Follow guidelines and expectations set up by the supervisory specialist in each area you are assigned.
  • Attendance is extremely important

Are there any prerequisites for a practicum?

  • When applying for our Practicum, you should be exploring a career in child life. You need to have graduated with a degree or should be completing your final semester towards a degree in child life, child development, human development or other closely related field.
  • We require that students have completed a minimum of two supervised experiences with healthy children in a non-health care setting (i.e., preschool lab, infant lab, volunteer experience, employment, etc.)  We strongly encourage at least 100 volunteer hours with children prior to starting this practicum.
  • Students also need to have a strong academic background in human growth and development. GPA of 3.0 in core classes.

College students must be in their junior or senior year and eligible to enroll in a university lab course to receive class credit for a course.

 The following universities are associated with Rady Children’s:

  • Point Loma Nazarene University
  • California State University San Marcos
  • San Diego State University
  • Azusa Pacific University
  • University of LaVerne

Application Due Dates

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

Practicum Offer and Acceptance Dates

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

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

Completed application includes:

  1. Typed application
  2. At least two educational or professional recommendations
  3. An unofficial school transcript

A selection committee of child life specialists will review all applications and will select which 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 his or her college/university.


Student recommendation form

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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.

For more information, contact the Practicum Coordinator at 858-966-1700, ext. 5733.