Friday, January 7, 2022
Career Leadership Academy

Erin Larsen currently works as a Certified Child Life Specialist at Sunrise Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. Erin served as the Executive Director of Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa and worked as a Child Life Assistant and a Child Life Intern at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital during her time as a student. Upon graduating from the University of Iowa, Erin’s career took her to the west where she works in the Pediatric Emergency Department.

How did you land your current job?

In order to be qualified to work as a Child Life Specialist I needed a bachelor’s degree and also to be certified by the Child Life Council. I received my bachelors in Leisure Studies with an emphasis in Child Life from UI in August of 2015. I also completed a 600 hour Child Life internship at UI Children's Hospital, which allowed me to be eligible to sit for the certification exam. In November of 2015 I passed the certification exam and officially became a Certified Child Life Specialist. I used online resources to search for Child Life jobs across the country. I applied for this job, interviewed, and a year later here I am!

What are your responsibilities at your job/ what does a typical work day look like?

As a Child Life Specialist, I focus on the psychosocial aspect of healthcare and provide developmental and emotional support to pediatric patients and their families in the hospital setting. I work in the pediatric emergency department where I regularly provide developmentally appropriate preparation and support to children for a wide variety of medical procedures. I utilize play to teach children about different procedures and diagnoses and also to normalize the hospital environment. I provide support to siblings of pediatric patients, and also provide support to families during and after traumatic events. There truly is never a "typical" day, because you never know what a day will bring!

How did you choose this career field?

When I was growing up my brother was frequently a patient in children's hospitals. He and I interacted with Child Life Specialists on numerous occasions, and I always knew that Child Life was what I wanted to do.

What advice do you have for current students?

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask: what makes me come alive?” then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Quote by Dr. Howard Thurman.) I would encourage students to dig deep and find something that they truly care about. While at Iowa, you have so many opportunities right at your fingertips. Learn about different fields, job shadow, volunteer, join different student organizations, and work hard. Seize every opportunity to learn about and experience new things. When you've found it, do everything that you can to work toward it.

What advice do you have for current job-seekers?

Don't give up and don't settle! Finding a good job, or any job, is a lot of work. It takes perseverance. Learn from the rejections you receive, because undoubtedly you will be rejected. Be confident in your knowledge and experience. Even if you don't think there is any chance you will get a certain job, apply! You never know.

How did your past experiences help you get this job?

My past experiences were integral in helping me get this job. Right after you graduate, regardless of what field you are in, you are a "new grad". You have no professional experience in your chosen field. The experiences that you had in college are what you have to refer to in interviews, and what your potential employers will see on your resume. I had a great deal of experience within my field at UI Children's Hospital during my time in college. I was a volunteer, a Child Life Assistant, Child Life practicum student, and Child Life intern. I was also very involved with the University of Iowa Dance Marathon and served on the executive board for two years. These experiences demonstrated to potential employers that I was dedicated to the field of Child Life, that I could handle a great deal of responsibilities, and that I was a hard worker. These experiences also provided me with great references, which are needed as part of any job application!

How did location factor in to choosing your job?

Born and raised in Iowa, I was excited to move somewhere new to begin my career. My particular field is a very small one, so choices are limited. I applied all over the country, willing to move almost anywhere to be employed as a Certified Child Life Specialist and begin the career that I care so deeply about. When I received an offer in Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada, I simply couldn't refuse!