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Child Life Internship

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is a nationally recognized provider of pediatric health care services. We are the only pediatric hospital in Tennessee ranked in 10 out of 10 pediatric specialty programs in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.” Children’s Hospital is also recognized by Leapfrog as one of the top ten children’s hospitals in the nation.

We established our Child Life Program in 1969. It began as a one-person, purely recreational program, and has grown to a large and diverse child life staff.

Our child life internship experience, accredited by the Association of Child Life Professionals, is a 16-week program requiring at least 40 hours per week. It provides high-quality instruction and preparation for emerging child life professionals. We have trained students through this internship experience since 1980. Our continual programming evaluations ensure a comprehensive and outstanding experience.

Applicants who may have completed a practicum placement at Vanderbilt are encouraged to seek internship placements at other facilities to broaden perspectives and diversify experiences.

Monroe Carell's Student Program has signed the Association of Child Life Professionals Internship Equity and Access Pledge in support of the child life community’s shared goal of creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive child life education and training experience for all.

Our department’s educational opportunities work to support the overall VUMC mission statement on diversity and inclusion:

We will reflect the diversity of the populations we serve in our teams, programs and communications and be inclusive in our processes and decisions.

Learn more about our team’s approach to supporting an inclusive environment for education, work and care. Learn more about the goals and learning opportunities we provide below.

Goals and Objectives

  • Achieve competency in the Essential Curriculum Topics for Child Life Clinical Internship as identified by the Association of Child Life Professionals.
  • Gain understanding of the impact of hospitalization on the emotional and developmental needs of children.
  • Engage with patients on a one-to-one basis and in group settings.
  • Provide an accepting, non-threatening environment to promote healthy interactions between child, staff, and family.
  • Become acquainted with the needs of hospitalized children and recognize creative and flexible programming in meeting these needs.
  • Learn to equip and empower children and families in their interaction with the healthcare system.
  • Prepare children for surgery and other medical experiences using audiovisual aids, medical toys, medical equipment and play.
  • Gain a basic and practical working knowledge of medical procedures, terminology, and the roles of multidisciplinary professionals within the hospital setting.
  • Understand the child life role as an effective member of a multidisciplinary team in providing for the psychosocial needs of children in a developmentally supportive environment.
  • Strengthen ability to interact and relate to the multidisciplinary team to promote positive experiences for hospitalized children.
  • Evaluate oneself under the guidance of experienced professionals, and to be measured by professional standards.
  • Gain professional attitude, growth, maturity, and judgment.
  • Transition from student to professional.

Assignments and Learning Activities

Assessments and observations – Interns complete developmental assessments and behavioral observations on patients from infancy to adolescence.

Book club – Interns meet weekly with child life staff to discuss assigned weekly readings relevant to child life practice.

Case study – The two case studies integrate theory and practice as they relate to one patient experience. A written and oral presentation is made to the child life staff with follow-up discussions.

Clinical conferences – Interns meet weekly with the child life educator and their rotation supervisors to discuss their experiences during rotations and how these experiences relate to their goals.

Clinical project – Interns develop projects that meet an identified clinical need specific to Child Life & Volunteer Services.

Documentation – Interns are given opportunities to record observations and interventions in the patient charts.

Evaluations – Interns receive one formal evaluation at the end of each of the three clinical rotations by the rotation supervisors. In-service attendance – In-services are presented to child life Interns by child life specialists and other hospital professionals.

Reflective journals – Journals offer interns the means for recording and reflecting upon experiences to integrate theory and their own reactions to the clinical experience.

Mock interview – Interns complete a mock interview with the Child Life director in preparation for entering the job market.

Presentations – Child life specialists and other hospital professionals give presentations to child life interns throughout the internship, directly supporting the interns' transition from students to professionals.

Program evaluation – Interns complete evaluations of each clinical rotation and the child life internship experience.

Scholarly article reviews – completed and discussed with the rotation supervisor and department educator.


Katie Smith, Child Life Educator
(615) 421-8915

Internship dates and deadlines

Hospitals and academic programs in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee will participate in a pilot internship match program for the Spring 2025 cycle. The pilot program is an effort to enhance the child life internship application process for all stakeholders. Our child life program has chosen to participate in this pilot. Therefore, we will only accept applications from matriculating students affiliated with academic programs participating in the pilot. Outside of the pilot program, our child life program will not take interns for spring 2025.

Please direct questions to

Application Process


Upon acceptance into the Child Life Internship program, you must send written documentation of the following required items.

  • Current enrollment in a college or university with a minimum 3.4 GPA (mandatory to be enrolled at the time of the proposed internship)
  • CPR certification
  • Health insurance
  • Professional liability insurance
  • Vaccination verification
    • Flu vaccination
    • Negative TB skin test within the past three months. If there is a history of a positive TB skin test, provide a chest X-ray taken within the past year.
    • If born on or after January 1, 1957, two live measles (rubella) vaccines given no less than one month apart, after the first birthday; or a measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine since 1989; or laboratory evidence of immunity to rubella or physician-diagnosed rubella infection.
    • Varicella (chickenpox) titer drawn from a reputable laboratory, evidence of having the disease is not sufficient.
    • Completed series of three Hepatitis-B vaccine, or informed refusal of the vaccine.
    • Laboratory evidence of immunity to rubella (German measles) within the last five years. This titer is not necessary if you have received the MMR or Rubella vaccine since 1989.
    • Tetanus/diphtheria booster if 10 years have elapsed since last booster (recommended).

Monroe Carell may require other appropriate immunizations to ensure you will not be a health hazard to patients and to protect your personal health.

Revised: March 2024