07th June 2021

Book in Focus

Research Methods for Child Life Specialists

Edited by Sarah Daniels, Sherwood Burns Nader and Jessika Boles

Just as pediatrics, as its own distinct field of inquiry and practice, grew from the roots and foundations of medicine, so too has the child life field of inquiry tunnelled for itself a new position in the healthcare industry. For decades, child life leaders and practitioners have drawn from, and come to rely upon, the inquiry strategies and tools of medical and nursing providers. However, our intent in bringing this textbook to fruition is to forge a path for the child life profession that—although grateful for, and grounded in, the work of those before us—allows us to begin a future in which we can feel confident in, and share, our approaches to, and best practices for, conducting research with children and families. In this textbook, unlike others in and beyond child life, it was our prerogative and privilege to ensure that ALL the contributors were Certified Child Life Specialists in clinics, hospitals, and academic settings. Although this textbook is a testament to the past and present of child life specialists as researchers, our ultimate motivation in writing it was, most simply, our hope for the future of child life services and pediatric healthcare. Certified Child Life Specialists have spent more than forty years learning, practicing, and revising; this textbook positions them now as research leaders who prioritize the voices of children, advocate for the needs of family systems, and establish best practices for high-quality psychosocial care.

The creation of this textbook started at a southeastern regional networking meeting. We each approached one another with the idea to write a textbook about research methods for child life specialists; soon after, we began the process of making this dream a reality. In our brainstorming, it was clear we wanted to produce a textbook that could be used by students and professionals of all levels. We wanted it to be a functional and practical resource that a person could pick up and use to develop a research study—from start to finish. We wanted our textbook to truly engage the audience, so we planned to incorporate child life examples, provide visualizations, and help readers connect to the material in a variety of ways. To meet each of these criteria, we needed authors with a similar vision to contribute to the textbook. It did not take long to identify and recruit a group of strong and productive child life researchers who fit our textbook’s needs and agreed to walk this road with us.

Thanks to our 12 contributors and the excellent editing team at Cambridge Scholars, we are proud to announce the official release of Research Methods for Child Life Specialists. Each chapter is written to be both inviting to those new to research, but also engaging and thought-provoking in ways that tenured researchers will find helpful as well. Throughout the creation and development of the textbook, we wanted it to be the kind of resource that readers would leave on their desk to use frequently. Research Methods for Child Life Specialists is just that type of textbook. The chapters flow consecutively, providing a story that inspires researchers from start to finish, but each chapter also stands alone strongly, allowing the reader to refer to the chapters that are most useful for them. Each of us has a copy on our desk and uses it frequently in both our work supporting others and our own research projects.

Inside the textbook, readers are first introduced to a brief history of the child life profession, including the ways in which research and evidence-based practice are woven into the very fundamental principles of our work. Additionally, readers are provided with foundational information regarding the application of developmental and family systems theories to practice and to research, and with the terminology needed to navigate each step in the research process. Each chapter that follows describes a key part of the research process, whether it be assembling your team, choosing an appropriate methodology, or disseminating your findings. While each chapter focuses on a different concept, the connecting factors throughout the text are the real-life case examples and child life inspirations, which make the content more meaningful to a child life specialist. We have also included key terms, fun facts, tips, author insights, graphs, tables, and interactive activities in each chapter that will engage readers and provide support for those experiencing challenges and celebrating successes in their research endeavors. Towards the end of the textbook, readers will find a collection of example posters, consent and assent forms, interview guides, quantitative and qualitative case examples, and more. Importantly, although this textbook contextualizes research methods for a child life specialist, many other psychosocial providers and allied health professionals will find the content in each chapter useful as they embark on their own research journeys. Core principles for research projects, such as developing your research problem, submitting a protocol to an ethics board for review, deciphering between methodological approaches, and conducting appropriate analyses with your data are all thoughtfully explained in ways that many professionals will appreciate.

Books on research are often not for the faint of heart; however, ours breaks that mold by bringing family-centered, developmentally grounded, and play-based research design to the forefront of pediatric healthcare research. Research Methods for Child Life Specialists is for the learner who enjoys engaging activities, poignant thought prompts, and real-world applications from professionals across the spectrum of the child life profession. If you think about it, engaging activities, poignant thought prompts, and real-world applications each have characteristics of play. Those descriptions fit our book perfectly because, as our cover title (created with the assistance of our own children and pets) highlights, research is play.

Sarah Daniels, MS, CCLS, is a Certified Child Life Specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis. Her research and quality improvement interests include evaluating the feasibility, efficacy, and role of child life services in the hospital setting, trends in technology use and youth development, psychosocial aspects of adolescent and young adult oncology, and mixed methods research design. She is the author of five journal articles.

Sherwood Burns-Nader, PhD, CCLS, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Alabama. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, her research interests include examining the psychosocial variables affecting children and families in the healthcare setting, the benefits of child life interventions, and the value of play in development and coping in children. She is the editor of Making Ethical Decisions in Child Life Practice Second Edition, and the author of three book chapters and 18 journal articles.

Jessika Boles, PhD, CCLS, is a Child Life Team Lead at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, her research interests include children’s experiences of participation in healthcare research, their developing understandings of abstract concepts such as legacy and loss, and the ways in which children negotiate healthcare contexts to access and respond to illness and treatment-related information. She has authored five book chapters and 31 journal articles.

Research Methods for Child Life Specialists is available now in Hardback at a 25% discount. Enter the code PROMO25 at the checkout to redeem.