Child Life Month Alumni Spotlight: Chelse

Name: Chelse Cudmore

Degree and Graduation Year: MS Human Development and Family Science, with an emphasis in Child Life, class of 2016. Chelse is now Child Life certified. 

Can you share a little bit about what ECU and HHP mean to you? 
Moving to ECU and earning my Master’s degree at East Carolina University is the best thing that could have happened to me. It has opened so many doors in my professional life that I will forever be grateful for. The faculty in the College of Health and Human Performance were supportive and helped to shape me into the professional I am today. East Carolina University will always hold a special place in my heart.

How did you become interested in the Child Life field?

I was working in a daycare center, unknown what my professional future held. One of the parents from the daycare worked at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and shared with me one day that she thought I would be interested in child life. I had never heard of the child life profession before so I began my research. I immediately fell in love with the profession and knew this is what I was called to do.

      What were some of your favorite Child Life courses at ECU?
      I think my favorite courses were the ones specific to the child life profession including Hospitalized Child and Death and Dying. These courses were the introduction to the role of child life in a hospital setting and I could not get enough. The Hospitalized Child course allowed me as a student to obtain 12 hours of observation in the hospital setting which was my first interaction with a child life specialist. I still have memories of what this experience was like for me. I also would not have the knowledge I have today if it were not for the child development and theories courses I took.

      Describe your job/role/current employer?
      I am a Child Life Specialist at Maynard Children’s Hospital in Greenville, NC and I primarily work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. I always tell people I have the best job in the world and I truly believe that. My role is to help normalize the hospital environment, to promote and teach positive coping skills regarding hospitalization, and to promote the universal language of play in what can be an unknown environment. I have the honor of helping to support patients and families through some of the scariest moments of their lives and also celebrate with them on the happiest days of their lives.

      What is a typical day like for you?
      There really is no typical day in the life of a child life specialist. Every day is different and that is one of the things I love most about my job. I continue to learn new things daily. I typically start my day by chart reviewing the patients on the census and utilize my prioritization skills to plan my day from there. A few examples of what a day for me could look like includes preparing a patient for an upcoming procedure and being there next to them for support, distraction, and empowerment throughout; engaging a patient in a bedside play activity or advocating to get them out of their room for a normal experience; supporting the family of a patient and serving as a listening ear.

      What has been your favorite experience working in Child Life so far?
      I love the versatility of the role of a child life specialist. As stated before, I learn something new on a daily basis and every day looks different. I love seeing how resilient children are and the look on their face when they were able to get through a procedure they did not think they could have beforehand. I love that child life is a constant support throughout the patients and families hospitalization journey.

      Where do you see the future of Child Life heading?
      Child life is ever changing and yet holds the same mission and values. Child life has come such a long way and is truly an integral part of the interdisciplinary team. I see child life continuing to grow and being the heart of children’s hospitals across the board for years to come.

      What is the greatest challenge Child Life Specialists face?
      Just like any job, there are trials and tribulations that are experienced. Fortunately, our hospital is such a huge child life advocate that we do not have to fight for our seat at the table. I would say the greatest challenge of being a Child Life Specialist is experiencing so many emotions and that is why self-care is so essential to succeed. The team you work with is your biggest ally, support system, cheerleader, etc. and will be the biggest tool you have as a Child Life Specialist.

      What advice would you give to students who wish to enter this field?
      Keep following your heart and your dreams. It will all work out the way it is supposed to in the end. You were meant to do great things and with hard work and perseverance, you can accomplish anything. As stated before, self-care is an essential part of learning, growing, and succeeding in the child life field. The rest will fall into place!