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Welcome to Child Life Unleashed!

Updated: May 29, 2021

While I sit in bed at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning, Dorian asleep and curled up next to me (after waking me up at 5:00 am), I can't help but think about the last 15 months. I began navigating the child life profession as a facility dog handler earlier in my career than I had anticipated. Being a relatively new child life specialist and incorporating another living being into your interventions, along with working through a global pandemic and a unit transition, has been quite an adventure. I have learned so much about my work and myself in the process. There have been challenges along the way but so many positives to outweigh the obstacles we have faced. Have you ever seen the commercial of the little girl in the hospital and the staff says "we're going to try something different today?" In walks a dog and the smile on that child's face is contagious. That is how I see my job. I get to change a child's hospital experience every single day and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can't wait to share more about the role of child life and facility dogs on this blog but I want to start off with more of an introduction post.

So first, a little about me...I am a certified child life specialist at a children's hospital in Southwest Florida. I have been certified since August 2017 and have worked in my current hospital since December 2017. The first two and a half years of my career as a child life specialist were spent on our inpatient Pediatrics unit. During COVID, our census dropped tremendously and my floor was closed (we have two inpatient pediatric floors). I was then moved to our Hematology/Oncology unit where I have covered our outpatient clinic and our inpatient unit since June 2020.

My journey to discovering the field of child life probably sounds similar to other stories out there. I am originally from Ohio. I received my Bachelor's Degree in human development and family studies with minors in psychology and health promotion from Bowling Green State University. I first went to school for a degree in nursing but decided that was not for me. After graduating, I then took some time off to work before applying to graduate schools. I attended The University of Akron to pursue my Master's Degree specifically in child life. Then began the competitive job hunt (another post for another day). I have been in this profession for almost 3.5 years now and I learn something new each day which is what I love about child life.

I have wanted to be a facility dog handler since attending the Association of Child Life Professional's (ACLP) annual conference in Orlando in 2016. I attended a conference session focused on the role of facility dogs and how they were being utilized by child life specialists. From then on, I had it set in my head (and my heart) that I wanted to do that one day in this career. I wanted to combine my love of animals with my passion in helping children to cope in the hospital setting. It was amazing to hear about the interventions dogs were being used for and how they were being used in various settings outside of inpatient units. That's where my love for the role of a facility dog handler began.

Now, a little bit about our hospital facility dog because I know that's what you're really here for...Dorian is a 3-year old goldendoodle (although most people would never guess he has any poodle in him). He was born in December 2017 in a littler of male dogs, all named after "men in literature." Ever heard of Dorian Gray? That's our boy. He has siblings working in hospitals across the country including Tennessee, New York, and a sibling in Florida. Dorian was grant funded to our hospital through Dunkin' Donuts' Joy in Childhood Foundation. Through their partnership with Canine Assistants, in Georgia, we attended camp for one week and were paired with our facility dog. Dorian has a primary handler and a secondary handler, a child life specialist in our PICU. He spends most of his time on our Hematology/Oncology unit and PICU but we take consults around the hospital including the lab, pediatrics, radiology, sedation, pre-op, etc. Dorian is essentially a member of the care team. He works clinically to meet the goals of our patients and families.

I created this blog as a way to share my experiences navigating the child life profession and my role as a facility dog handler. I wanted to be able to connect with others in the field. I also want to inspire others to consider the field of child life as it continues to grow. I am excited to go more into detail about what facility dogs are, their role in and outside of the hospital setting, specific interventions Dorian is used for, and other topics related to the field of child life and facility dogs. If you have specific topics you would like to see me write about, please don't hesitate to reach out. I am open and if I feel I can do them justice, then I am more than happy to give it a try. Welcome to Child Life Unleashed! Thanks for being here!

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