Working with sick children is challenging yet rewarding

Kylie Estreich is a play therapist at Sydney Children’s Hospital. Picture GREG TOTMANTaking a break from work can be a great chance to reset, ready for the year ahead. It can also be time to contemplate the dream job that you’d rather return to. At the Mercury, we’re investigating those fantasy careers to see if they’re all they’re cracked up to be.
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JOB ENVY – You wish you were a … child life therapist.

Kylie Estreich, child life therapist at Sydney Children’s Hospital.

I’ve worked in the Kids Cancer Centre for about seven years. I work with all the children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders. I always knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t want to teach, and I’ve always had an interest in medicine, but didn’t want to be a doctor or nurse – this seemed like the perfect fit.

No two days at work are really the same, which is one of the things I love most about my job. My day can include play sessions with children, supporting kids undergoing radiotherapy treatment, explaining to a newly diagnosed child and their family some of the things their first few days will involve, as well as big messy art and craft sessions with children staying on the ward for chemo.

People always tell me my job is cool. I think it’s because it’s not your run-of-the-mill desk job, and it isn’t something a lot of people have heard of before. Plus, I think some people envision me playing with cute kids all day.

My job actually is really fun and seriously rewarding. There is so much to learn from the kids. They teach me to appreciate everything in life, and not sweat the small stuff.

It is a privilege to be able to work with these kids and their families and play a part in their childhood. I love seeing the kids come back for follow-ups months and years on and seeing how well they are doing.

I also love that I get to work very closely with charities such as Camp Quality and the Starlight Foundation.

The job does have some challenges. I have to make sure I look after myself emotionally, because working with sick – and sometimes dying – children and their families can be really physically and mentally draining.

The other main challenge is just meeting the demand – having up to 50 kids coming through my area of the hospital each day, who all need support in their own way, definitely keeps me on my toes. At the end of the day, though, the fun and rewarding sides of the job outweigh the challenges.

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