child life specialist with two female child patient

Child Life Internship and Job Shadow

Mercy Children's Hospital & Clinics is a network of pediatric services within Mercy Medical Center, an 802-bed acute care, not-for-profit Catholic hospital situated on three campuses. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1893, Mercy is Des Moines’ longest continually operating hospital and one of the largest employers in the state, with more than 6,600 employees and a medical staff of more than 950 physicians and allied health professionals. Mercy is also one of the Midwest’s biggest referral centers, offering a variety of specialty services that are unique to Iowa and the region. Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics pediatric services include inpatient care, Center for Craniofacial and Children’s Reconstructive Surgery, Children’s Emergency Center, Variety Club Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Variety Club Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Clinics, Pediatric Subspecialty Clinic, Mercy Pediatric Neurology and Psychiatry Center and Pediatric Rehab. Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics is proud to offer Central Iowa's only pediatric cardiology and cardiovascular surgery program.  

The Child Life Program

The Child Life program at Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics is a vital component of the health care team. Staffed by professionally trained individuals, our Child Life team helps children and their families cope with the emotional and psychological stress of medical experiences. Beginning in 1996 with just one Child Life Specialist providing services to Pediatrics and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the program has expanded to include seven Child Life Specialists providing services throughout the Medical Center. Areas of service include Pediatrics and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Medical Imaging, Pediatric Emergency Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Endoscopy and Cardiac Catheterization Lab. Child Life Specialists are available 7 days a week to work with children of patients in adult units and throughout the hospital who could benefit from Child Life interventions. Our goal is to meet the psychosocial needs of as many children as we can within the Medical Center. 

Child Life Internship

A 19-week Child Life Internship is offered in the spring and fall at Mercy Children’s Hospital & Clinics. The purpose of this internship is to demonstrate how Child Life theory is applied in the clinical setting and to facilitate your transition from student to entry-level Child Life professional. Skills observed and learned throughout your experience will also help to prepare you for the Child Life Certification Exam. 

Applications for our spring 2019 internship are now being accepted.


Before applying for the Child Life Internship candidates must complete all of the requirements in order to be eligible to sit for the exam except for the internship.  Candidates must have the following completed prior to submission of the Child Life Common Application:

  • Bachelor's degree or college senior enrolled in any area of study.
  • Completion of a Child Life Course taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist.
  • Completion of or in progress with good standing in nine additional courses in child life or related subject area (see Association of Child Life Professionals website for more detailed information on coursework requirements) http://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/2019-eligibility-details.pdf?sfvrsn=12 .
  • High academic achievement:  GPA of 3.0+.
  • Minimum of 50 hours working with families and children in each category of experience as described on the Child Life Common Application: in Healthcare Settings, in Stressful Situations, and in typical settings.

To apply complete the Child Life Common Application form found at https://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/internships/common-child-life-internship-application.pdf?sfvrsn=18.      

Please include the following with the completed application:

  • Three reference letters.  One letter from each of the following settings: 1) Academic 2) Healthcare experience and 3) Non-academic setting addressing your interactions with children (such as volunteer, summer camp, daycare, etc.). The reference letters should be from people who have directly interacted with or observed you.
  • Official Child Life Eligibility Assessment Report.
  • Transcript (official or non-official is acceptable).
  • Resume/curriculum vitae.
  • Any additional documents to support your eligibility (such as in progress forms, verification forms, etc.).
  • Send the completed application and requested supporting documents by the postmark deadline to:

Mercy Medical Center–Des Moines
Attn: Rania Robb, East Tower 4th Floor/NICU
1111 6th Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50314

For more information about application submission deadlines please visit http://www.childlife.org/certification/students/internship-deadlines .

Once your application is received and reviewed you will receive a call thanking you for your application or inviting you to schedule and participate in a Skype interview. Our internship program follows the offer/acceptance deadlines listed on the ACLP website.

If you accept our Child Life Internship Offer you agree to:

  • Commit to a 19-week, 600-hour internship. Interns will be required to work 40 hours per week, including some weekend and evening hours.
  • Pass a mandatory health screening and show proof of up-to-date immunization record.
  • Sign a contract of agreement for internship participation with your college/university or carry the liability insurance with a minimum $1,000,000 coverage (if not affiliated).
  • Read these required resources prior to internship start date:
    • Gaynard, L., Wolfer, J. Goldberger, J., Thompson, R., Redburn, L., and Laidley, L. (1990). Psychosocial Care of Children in Hospitals: A clinical Practice Manual.
    • Thompson, R., Stanford, G. (1981). Child Life in Hospitals.

Please contact Rania Robb at (515) 358-4083 or rrobb@mercydesmoines.org with specific questions regarding the Child Life Internship.

Child Life Job Shadow

Opportunities are also available for job shadowing child life specialists at Mercy. Prerequisites for the child life job shadow include:

  • Interest in a 2 hour observation opportunity with a Child Life Specialist
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older

For more information, please contact Erin Biergert at ebiegert@mercydesmoines.org.

If you would like to volunteer in the pediatric areas, you will need to visit the Mercy Volunteer Service Webpage.


(515) 247-3121
1111 6th Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50314

Copyright ©2019 Mercy Medical Center. All Rights Reserved