published Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Specialist finds dream job at Children’s Hospital

  • photo
    Ashley Williams, a child life specialist, laughs with Charlee Casseday, 3, about the oil pastels on their hands at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. Williams provides patients with fun activities and company during their treatments at the hospital. Casseday is undergoing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

* Name: Ashley Williams

* Position: Child life specialist

* Location: T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital at Erlanger Health System

* What is a child life specialist: “We focus on the psycho-social aspect of children while they’re in the hospital. We make it a less scary environment for them. We make needle-pokes or surgery, or scary words and terms a little less scary. We do that through play, education and distraction. We play with a purpose.”

* First job: “I worked at Chik-fil-A for two days when I was 14. They spilled chicken on me and I quit.”

* Best part of the job: “When I leave work and when I come to work, I’m so grateful for the job I have and for my life. I work with kids with cancer and blood disorders, so I see these kids go through all this crazy stuff, but I’m also so rewarded to have known them and get to see them. I’m very grateful when I leave and go home. I’m very thankful for my health.”

* Worst part of the job: “I have to clean toys all day long. If a kid uses a toy, I have to wipe it down, especially with my kids with cancer because their immune systems are compromised. That’s the day-to-day worst part of my job. Overall, the worst part is having to lose a patient and see the family have to say goodbye to a child.”

* What she’s learned: “My job makes me happy. To have my dream job right out of college is pretty crazy. I’ve learned how to establish relationships and care for people.”

* How to make a career of it: Have a four-year degree in a related field, complete an internship, and take a certified test to become a certified child life specialist.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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