Skip to Main ContentSkip to Footer

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.

Children’s Hospital established its 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 to 18-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. We continually evaluate our programming to 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.

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.

Internship dates and deadlines

Spring Internship: January to May

  • Application deadline: September 5
  • Initial offer: Second Tuesday of October
  • Acceptance from student: Second Wednesday of October

Fall Internship: August to December

  • Application deadline: March 15
  • Initial offer: First Tuesday of May
  • Acceptance from student: Following Wednesday of the initial offer date

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

Article critiques - Research article critiques are completed and discussed with the rotation supervisor and department educator.

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

Book club - Interns meet weekly with the educator and/or other child life staff to discuss assigned weekly reading from texts directly 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 educator for Child Life & Volunteer Services 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.

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


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

Application Process

Please see this Internship Application Process Guide from the Association of Child Life Professionals for helpful considerations and details about the child life internship 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 requirements

  • COVID-19 vaccination
  • 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).

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

How to apply

The application and recommendation forms below are PDF documents. If the forms open within your browser, save them to your computer and edit them with the type tools or typewriter tools in Adobe Reader. You may also complete the forms by hand, and then scan and email them to us.

To submit via email

Please send the following items with a delivery and/or read-receipt to confirm delivery. Due to the large volume of applications, we are unable to manually confirm delivery and receipt of items.

1. Completed internship application, submitted via email to

2. Three completed recommendation forms (see the bottom of this page) submitted via email to Recommendation forms must come from the recommenders' email addresses. It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide recommenders with the form and the top portion of the form completed by the applicant. A letter of recommendation, in addition to the recommendation form, is not required but may be submitted along with the form. Recommendations should come from the following sources:

  • Professor
  • Child Life Specialist supervisor for volunteer or practicum hours
  • Other

3. Documentation of a minimum of 100 accumulated hours of a child life practicum, completed by the time of application deadline, under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist. Acceptable documentation includes the ACLP Confirmation of Practicum In-Progress form (with at least 100 hours completed at time of application), the ACLP Verification of Practicum Experience Hours form, or a signed letter of verification from the practicum site.

4. Documentation of at least 100 hours of experience with infants, children, youth and/or families in stressful situations, health care settings and/or programs designed for children with special needs. Acceptable documentation of this includes the ACLP Verification of Related Experience form or signed verification provided from the experience site(s).

5. Documentation of at least 100 hours of experience with well infants, children, youth and/or families. Acceptable documentation of this includes the ACLP Verification of Related Experience form or signed verification provided from the experience site(s).

6. Resume

7. Letter of intent: The letter of intent should clearly and concisely explain how the applicant’s experiences, education and skillset are a good fit for this internship.

8. Copy of the academic coursework portion of the eligibility assessment from the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP). At the time of application deadline, applicants must have completed and passed all minimum coursework as reflected in the ACLP Eligibility Assessment. Please visit to find details for the process of verifying eligibility.

9. Transcripts (minimum 3.4 GPA; official OR unofficial are accepted)

To submit via physical delivery

Mail to:
Child Life Services, ATTN: Katie Smith
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way, Suite 2116
Nashville, TN 37232-9002

To confirm receipt of application materials, please send your submissions via Certified US Mail, FedEx, or UPS. All these mailing options offer package tracking services. We are unable to manually confirm delivery and receipt of application materials due to the large volume of items received.

Please note that physical mail can take up to 2 weeks to arrive after being mailed. Bear this in mind as application reviews begin immediately following the application deadline. The deadlines listed below are RECEIVE BY deadlines, not postmark deadlines.

    Revised: August 2022