Danna Stokes grew up in Greenville, SC and completed her undergraduate degree at Clemson University (Go Tigers!). She always knew that she wanted to work with children, and after volunteering and interning with a few different organizations, she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in child life. As a kid, she hated going to the doctor, so the idea of being involved in a profession where the main purpose is to reduce the stress of hospitalization intrigued her. After realizing the competitiveness of the field, she decided that in order to land her dream job, she would need to earn a master’s degree in child life, which led her to College of Charleston. She graduated with her Masters of Science in Child Life in May 2016 and earned her certification in August of the same year.
Her first day as a Certified Child Life Specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was August 1st 2016, where she works in the emergency department at Egleston, one of CHOA’s three main campuses. She sees everything from seriously injured patients to fractured bones or small lacerations. Her primary role is to reduce the stress and impact of hospitalization for patients and families. She also often provides alternate focus to help divert the patient’s attention during stressful times. She loves so many aspects of her job, but her favorite part is when she gets to prepare a child for a procedure. She often uses medical equipment or teaching dolls to ensure that the child understands what he or she will see, hear, and feel during the procedure. She loves seeing that little lightbulb go on when a patient realizes that he or she knows exactly what is going to happen and that there is a coping plan in place that will make the experience easier. She says there’s nothing like watching a five-year-old tell a physician “that’s the string Band-Aid that’s going to fix my cut!”
In a profession like child life, experience is everything. Fortunately, the graduate program at the University of Charleston, SC at the College of Charleston provided a lot of opportunities to build relationships with community organizations and gain experience working with children and families. As a cohort, she were involved with an organization that provided end-of-life resources to families, a group that allowed for normative camp opportunities to children with various illnesses or developmental challenges, as well as a school program that focused on grief counseling for children. Throughout every experience and every interaction, she learned how to better shape her language and disposition to fit the individual patient and family that she is working with.
Her advice to current graduate students is to enjoy the learning. She has always thought that it is such a privilege to live in a country where we have such easy access to learning. The great part about graduate school is that you are finally taking classes that are focused on exactly what you are interested in learning about. Once you graduate, you do not have as easy access to learning, so make sure you take advantage of the opportunities to soak it all in, make the mistakes and learn from them now. She also says that although graduate school can be very stressful at times, especially if you are balancing a job or other life commitments along with your education, it’s all worth it when you land that job. She is so thankful every day for her career. She loves what she does and knows that it would have never been possible without earning her master’s degree.
If you would like more information on our Child Life program: http://childlife.cofc.edu/index.php