Thank you for your interest in the Child Life Department's Practicum Program at Inova L.J. Murphy Children's Hospital. Our practicum is designed as a 150 hour pre-internship experience for students who are pursuing a career or degree program to become a Child Life Specialist. The practicum is structured so that students will complete 12 hours a week for the first 11 weeks, usually broken up into 2 – 6 hours days to get the most benefit, and then a total of 18 hours the last week for opportunities to observe other units. Weekend and consistent evening shifts are NOT available.

Students will be paired with Certified Child Life Specialists and will shadow and work independently with hospitalized children in 2 concentrated rotations throughout Inova Children’s Hospital. There will also be opportunities to spend time on other units throughout the practicum time. These areas may include any of the following: Pediatric Medical/Surgical units, Hematology/Oncology/Orthopedics/Trauma, Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, Outpatient Radiology, Outpatient Surgery Center, NICU, Cardiac, Adult Consults, and PSCU departments.

Students will be placed into rotations based on staff availability and other department demands during that particular session. Practicum applicants do not have to be enrolled in a university or college program but must be pursuing the child life career path. For more information on the Child Life profession, please visit the Association for Child Life Professionals website at

Entrance Requirements

  • No previous child life practicum experience.
  • Completion of 5 or more courses in child life or related areas (i.e. child or human development, family dynamics, psychology, counseling, expressive therapies, family systems, ethics, death/dying, play, therapeutic recreation). 
  • Completion of sophomore standing at the college/university level in a Bachelor’s program or have completed a degree program of a similar field such as child development, psychology, human development, family studies, etc).
  • 2.75 cumulative GPA with a 3.0 major GPA.
  • Completion of a minimum of 50 hours work with children with medical needsand/or stressful situations; 25 hours MUST be in a hospital setting.* Verification is required. This is separate from a reference letter. Paid hours may count towards total.
  • Completion of a minimum of 50 hours working with well children. Paid hours may count towards total.

All interested applicants must submit ALL of the following completed materials via email to be considered for an interview as a practicum student.  Applications that are mailed in via USPS or any other carrier will NOT be accepted.

  • Cover Letter – please include any barriers that may have prevented you from achieving the entrance requirements.
  • Completed practicum application.
  • Two letters of recommendation (at least one must have directly observed your work with children in any setting). Letters must be emailed by the individual writing them to the same email address as the other application materials. The applicant’s name should be included in the subject line of the email.
  • Separate list of child life field related classes and grade received. Please use Child Life Course form provided here.
  • Official or unofficial college or university transcript(s).
  • Current resume.
  • Written essay (300 - 500 words) about how the practicum at Inova Children's Hospital will benefit your professional goals, as well as, 3 things that make you stand out as a candidate.
  • Verification of hours worked with children in a medical setting or in a stressful situation. This MUST be a signed letter and/or log of hours from the stated institution.
  • Four professional goals written bulleted format.

Please note: Emails confirming receipt of the application will not be sent by the practicum coordinators. It is the responsibility of the student to follow up if so desired.

Be advised that you will have to complete a full health screen, including a drug test & TB test, prior to starting your practicum. Paperwork will be sent to you via our HR department. You can choose to complete the drug & health screening on your own and pay out of pocket OR you will need to arrive at least one week prior to the selected start date to complete this through the Inova system.

Please send all application materials together so you can be certain of their arrival to the email address of Practicum coordinators are Holly Senn, CCLS and Nicole Johnson, CCLS.

Once completed applications are reviewed the applicants will be notified of the status of their application. Applicants should retain a copy of their application materials for their records. Qualified applicants will be contacted to set up an interview with the child life practicum program coordinators and other staff from the child life department. The following schedule is followed as closely as possible.

Upcoming Session

We will be offering a summer 2024 practicum session for one position. Applications will only be accepted via email and ALL application materials must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 4, 2024. It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm with reference requests that items have been emailed. We will NOT be offering a fall 2024 session.

Housing, Parking and Meals

Practicum students are not paid and will be required to make their own arrangements for housing. Student will be provided with one shirt or jacket with hospital logo.

Parking is included with a hospital-issued ID badge. The badge will allow access to the Blue and Gray parking garages on the medical campus free of charge. There is a cafeteria and several cafés that offer many meal choices or students can bring a meal with them. Since students will be at the campus for approximately 6 hours at a time, a break will be given.

All practicum experience inquiries should be emailed to Practicum coordinators are Holly Senn, CCLS and Nicole Johnson, CCLS.