Mayo Clinic child life specialist working with child

Program overview

Duration: 16 weeks
Class size: 2 students
Location: Rochester, Minnesota

The Child Life Specialist Internship is designed to provide a hands-on experience coupled with educational opportunities. Each intern will participate in a 16-week (640-hour) experience, under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist, to develop clinical skills in therapeutic play techniques, preparation, procedural support, assessment, and education.

To be eligible the internship, you must be a senior in college or have completed a bachelor's or master's degree with a major in:

  • Child life
  • Child development
  • Human growth and development
  • Child psychology
  • Other related fields

Confirmation of classes taken is approved by the Association of Child Life Professionals via the online Eligibility Assessment. Eligibility includes approval of a child life course taught by a child life specialist.

Students receive a degree from their college or university commensurate with their didactic and clinical training.

Students are responsible for scheduling their certification exams through the Association of Child Life Professionals. It is recommended that you schedule and sit for your exam after completion of necessary eligibility requirements. Many institutions require entry-level child life specialists to pass the certification exam within their first year of employment, if not before.

Insights from a Mayo Clinic Child Life Specialist

Insights from a Mayo Clinic Child Life Specialist

How to apply

The program begins in January and runs through April.

Your application and all supporting documentation must be postmarked by Sept. 5, 2019.

We subscribe to the dates and deadlines recommended by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP):

  • Application deadline: Sept. 5, 2019
  • Initial offer date: Oct. 8, 2019
  • Acceptance date: Oct. 9, 2019
  • Second offer date: Oct. 10, 2019

All application materials must be postmarked by stated deadlines.

A completed internship application includes the following:

  • ACLP Common Child Life Internship Application.
  • Unofficial transcripts from all attended institutions (official transcripts will be required upon acceptance).
  • A copy of the Eligibility Assessment from ACLP. Strong candidates will have completed the required coursework prior to beginning the internship.
  • Two letters of recommendation, utilizing the ACLP Child Life Internship Candidate Common Recommendation Form, from any of the following sources:
    • Professor
    • Child life volunteer supervisor
    • Practicum supervisor
    • Individual who has observed your work with children
  • Documentation of experience:
    • 100 hours: Experience with well infants, children or teens (work or volunteer accepted).
    • 100 hours minimum: Volunteer experience in a hospital or clinic setting serving pediatric patients.
    • At medical camps, child care settings or classroom settings. These experiences are valuable and should be included.
  • Resume.
  • Letter of intent that includes the following information about yourself:
    • Goals for the internship.
    • Special talents, abilities, interests, attributes.

Send your completed application packet to:

Jennifer Rodemeyer, M.A., CCLS
Child Life Internship Director and Child Life Manager
Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences
Francis 3-116
200 First St. SW
Rochester, MN 55905

To confirm receipt of application materials, send your submissions via certified U.S. mail, FedEx or UPS, all of which provide tracking options.


One week of orientation will be followed by two six-week rotations: one in an inpatient setting and the other in an outpatient setting. The remaining three weeks provide opportunities for observation and experience in clinical areas of interest.

The child life student is responsible for:

  • Planning and implementing therapeutic play activities, both one-to-one and in a group setting
  • Serving as an advocate for patients and families
  • Completing comprehensive assessments that support individualized interventions in the context of the family support system
  • Establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with patients who have diverse needs and backgrounds
  • Applying theoretical knowledge to daily clinical experiences
  • Gaining an understanding of the impact of health care encounters on patients and family members and implementing strategies to diminish the impact of medical stressors
  • Communicating observations of the patient's behavior and interactions with the child life supervisor and relevant members of the health care team
  • Managing and organizing time, while demonstrating adherence to identified deadlines
  • Attending and actively participating in educational in-services

In addition, interns participate in educational seminars throughout the 16-week experience. Topics relate directly to practice and service delivery and may include child development theory and the impact of hospitalization, assessment, documentation, and medical play, just to name a few.


Numerous resources are used during the internship to enhance learning and support ongoing growth and development. Please review the reading list below, noting the required vs. recommended readings. Most are available through the Association of Child Life Professionals online bookstore.

Required readings:

  • "The Handbook of Child Life," by Richard H. Thompson, Ph.D. (2009)
  • "Meeting Children's Psychosocial Needs Across the Healthcare Continuum," by Judy Holt Rollins, Ph.D., Rosemary Bolig and Carmel C. Mahan (2005)

Recommended readings:

  • "Psychosocial Care of Children in Hospitals: A Clinical Practice Manual," by Gaynard, et al. (1998)
  • "Child Life in Hospitals: Theory and Practice," by Richard H. Thompson and Gene Stanford (1981)
  • "Helping Children Cope With Stress," by Avis Brenner (1984)
  • "A Pediatric Bill of Rights" 12-page brochure (2002)
  • "Coping in Young Children: Early Intervention Practices to Enhance Adaptive Behavior and Resilience," by Shirley Zeitlin and G. Gordon Williamson (1994)
  • "Official Documents of the Child Life Council," by Child Life Council (2002)
  • "Making Ethical Decisions in Child Life Practice," by Child Life Council (2000)
  • "A Child in Pain: What Health Care Professionals Can Do to Help," by Leora Kuttner, Ph.D. (2010)
  • Association of Child Life Professionals Evidence-Based Practice Statements
  • "How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness," by Kathleen McCue, M.A., C.C.L.S. (1996)

The following recommended resource is not available through the Association of Child Life Professionals:

  • "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk," by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (2012)


For the majority of your internship, your learning schedule includes eight-hour days, five days a week. While the regular workweek is usually 40 hours, additional projects, patient activities and homework are assigned. In addition, some weekend and evening hours are included in the schedule.

Tuition and financial aid

There is no tuition for the internship. The only expenses directly to Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences are for a background check ($69.50).

You are responsible for providing your living accommodations and transportation.

Total estimated cost of attendance

  • $0 — tuition and fees
  • $69.50 — other expenses
  • $69.50 — total estimated cost of attendance*

*Program tuition rates, fees and related expenses are subject to change. These estimated expenses represent a good faith effort to disclose true costs of attendance.

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