By Brooklin Byrd
Asst. Life Editor
Intersect, Union’s sociology club, kicked off its semester of events by inviting Rachel Ryan, child life specialist and a future Union faculty member, to hold a seminar and interact with students interested in taking the unique career path.
Child life specialists operate behind the scenes in hospitals to make the lives of children being treated more enjoyable. The child life specialist occupation is a relatively new field and is gaining interest around the nation and on campus within the Sociology and Family Studies departments.
Shelby Henson, junior family studies major, said child life specialists play an important role in hospital organization and in the encouragement of children.
“A lot of times, all people are worried about is the physical elements and like how we can cure them physically, but they don’t realize everything that’s going on emotionally and mentally, and they don’t realize how to cope with it,” Henson said, emphasizing the role child life specialists play in easing patients’ stress.
Ryan took two teddy bears to the seminar, Patches and Benny, that she uses on a regular basis to show children which procedures doctors will perform. Benny’s tummy can be unzipped to reveal all his vital organs.
The bear is a great tool in communicating with children about surgery, she said. Another popular activity is hosting a prom for teenagers who miss the event due to illness.
Ryan, a Union graduate, is the only certified child life specialist in the Jackson community and will become a faculty member in spring 2013 to advise child life specialist hopefuls and teach a child life specialist class and a parent-child relationship class.
The classes are open to all majors and will provide practical advice for raising a family or working with children.
Dr. Nina Heckler, associate professor of sociology, is excited to have Ryan on staff.
“I think she’ll be a great asset just to be able to offer not only the child life specialist but also for her to, you know, bring in the real world experience into the parent-child class,” Heckler said.