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 and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Child Life Specialists are also on-call 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

The 16 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. The units in which you could be rotating include:

• Pediatrics/Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
• Medical Imaging
• Pediatric Emergency Department
• Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Additional learning opportunities that are part of the internship include a daily journal, presentation of a case study, completion of an intern project, and weekly educational sessions discussing Child Life related journal articles. Our internship experience includes all clinical internship essential curriculum topics recommended by the Child Life Council.

Child Life Internship Prerequisites 

  • Bachelor's degree or college senior enrolled in one of the following recommended degrees: Child Life, Child Development, Child and Family Services or Psychology
  • Current enrollment in or completion of a Child Life Course taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist
  • High academic achievement:  GPA of 3.0+
  • Ability to commit to 16-week, 600-hour internship. Interns will be required to work 40 hours per week, including some weekend and evening hours.
  • Ability to pass mandatory health screening and show proof of up-to-date immunization record
  • Ability to sign contract of agreement for internship participation with your college/university
  • Required readings 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.

Child Life Internship Application

Applicants must be affiliated with a university or college at the time of the internship.

To apply for the Child Life Internship, please complete the Common Child Life Internship application found here: Child Life Internship Application. Mercy follows the internship deadline outlined by the Child Life Council Child Life Internship Application Deadlines.

Please send the completed application form, two reference letters in sealed and signed envelopes, Child Life Course Verification Form (or letter stating good standing of course currently in progress), Official Child Life Eligibility Assessment Report, resume/curriculum vitae, and an official transcript to:

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

Please contact Rania Robb at (515) 358-4083 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
  • Applicants must be affiliated with a university

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

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