Conversation with Colleen Verrett
Baton Rouge, LA - Colleen Verrett graduated with a BS in the Child & Family Studies program in May 2019 and a MS in the Child & Family Studies program in May 2021. She is a member of one of the first cohorts to graduate from LSU with a master's in Child & Family Studies.
Verrett is from Baton Rouge, LA. She took some time to discuss a little bit about her recent success following graduation and give some advice to our future Tigers below.
About Verrett's Career
Verrett is a Child Life Specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital. Using knowledge of child development and stressors present in the healthcare environment, she works with patients and families to alleviate some of the stress associated with healthcare settings. This includes providing developmentally appropriate education for patients with a new diagnosis, providing psychological preparation and procedural support for various procedures, facilitating medical, therapeutic, and normalization play opportunities, and providing support to family members of patients. By working with patients, parents, and other members of the healthcare team she individualizes care plans to best meet each patient's needs.
"One of my favorite parts of my job is being able to use play to improve patient's coping skills and allow them to take control in a playful, safe environment. Play is incredibly beneficial for children, and I find ways to use play to teach children about the hospital and about healthy coping mechanisms."
Prior to starting her position as a Child Life Specialist, Verrett completed a Child Life Internship at Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital over the summer. During this experience, she was able to observe and learn from the Certified Child Life Specialists at OLOLCH and begin to implement child life interventions with increased independence throughout the summer. Verrett says this was a great learning experience that prepared her immensely for her current position.
Recently, she co-authored an article with Dr. Brittany Wittenberg for the Pediatric Dental Journal regarding the role of Child Life Specialists in pediatric dentistry. In this article, they reviewed the literature regarding child life and pediatric dentistry and ways that child life specialists could help alleviate or prevent dental fear and anxiety in pediatric dental patients. Verrett says this is an area of Child Life that could use further research and exploration to determine how child life interventions can be effective within pediatric dentist offices. This was her first publication, and she says it was a great experience and accomplishment that was achieved alongside one of her mentors.
“I love seeing our students excel in our program and beyond. Colleen was one of our first students to receive a master's degree in Child & Family Studies with a focus on child life. Colleen’s success is a direct reflection of the value of a degree in the College of Human Sciences & Education,” says co-author Brittany Wittenberg, PhD.
Memories from LSU
Verrett shared that some of her best memories from LSU came from being a student during the development of the Child Life program. Verrett recalls that being one of the first Child Life students as an undergraduate student was such a great experience. She was able to experience this further in graduate school as the Child & Family Studies master's curriculum was re-started. The support from staff and classmates within the graduate and child life programs was never lacking, which she says made both experiences great ones.
College prepared Verrett for her career in many ways. She learned the foundation of child development and family theory in her coursework and continues to use these every day at work. Through practicum and internship requirements in undergrad and grad school, she was able to learn about the field of Child Life and gained experience in a professional setting. Verrett notes that all of her experiences in undergrad and grad school at LSU prepared her for her career as a Child Life Specialist, and she continues to see examples of this every day.
Advice to Current Students
"I think one of the best things students can do is to reach out to professors for support and help. Each staff member wants to see their students succeed, and they are always willing to help. I always felt supported by the faculty and staff within my department and have continued to receive their support after graduation."