Erikson graduate awarded child life scholarship

Veronica Burns, MS ’18, earns Association of Child Life Professionals Diversity Scholarship

Veronica Burns always knew she wanted to work with young children in the medical field, but it wasn’t until a colleague recommended Erikson that child life came into focus.

“Child life is a great field; it’s all about supporting and advocating for kids and families, especially in tough, stressful situations, most notably in hospitals,” says Burns, MS ’18 in Child Development with a child life specialization.

Burns recently was awarded an Association of Child Life Professionals Diversity Scholarship that assists students of diverse backgrounds or those who are uniquely qualified to serve patients of diverse backgrounds. Burns, who is black, copes with autoimmune issues—including interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia. Burns will use her ACLP scholarship during her summer internship in the child life department at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago.

Child Life specialists advocate for children and their families in health-care settings as they cope with chronic and acute illness, injury, or trauma. They help children and families understand their complex health care challenges and help minimize the stresses brought on by medical procedures and the hospital experience.

For Burns, becoming a child life specialist is her life coming full circle. Some of Burns’ childhood friends had chronic illnesses.

“I was lucky enough to meet their child life specialists, and I just thought it was an amazing, amazing field,” says Burns, who also is a certified infant massage instructor. “I originally wanted to go to school to become a pediatrician, and I kind of got sucked into child life and all the psychosocial aspects to medical care. It just really inspired me to really want to give back to the community.”

Burns learned about the Erikson child life program when she was an undergraduate at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her bachelor’s in human development and family studies with a concentration in child and adolescent development. While working as an assistant teacher at Sinai Preschool in Chicago, Burns’ hometown, her supervisor told her about Erikson.

“There are so many incredible instructors who do amazing work in the field who teach classes at Erikson. It’s been great to learn from them.” Burns says. “I had an amazing, wonderful cohort of supportive women who were all going through the same things, and it’s great to hear those experiences working in the child life community in Chicago.”

Burns is now a part of that community and looks forward to becoming a certified child life specialist in Chicago or Colorado. Her internship at Shriners will move her toward that goal.

Learn more about Erikson’s Child Life concentration here.