Alyssa Stewart, Child Life Specialist

Alyssa Stewart, child life specialist, traveled many miles in her journey to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Photo by Maxwell Boam.

I always was interested in helping children. I lived in Arkansas until college, when I moved to Virginia to attend Liberty University and received my degree in child development and psychology. I wanted to work in humanitarian relief overseas, so after graduation, I took a job as the interim director of programs at Pure Mission, where I acted as a caregiver and guardian for children in Malawi, Africa, while also overseeing daily operations of Esther’s House orphanage, 12 local feeding centers and a program for widows. Those six months were life changing because it put into perspective what I wanted in my life and career.

When I returned to the United States, I looked for a job that allowed me to feel fulfilled by helping vulnerable populations like in Africa. I remembered learning of child life services during college and decided to pursue my clinical internship with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

A child life specialist’s goal is to reduce stress and anxiety for our infants, youths and teens. We usually accomplish this through a variety of interventions, including preparation, diagnostic education and therapeutic play, which is a focused activity that promotes emotional expression or normal development in a specific area.

I work in the emergency department, so children who face significant medical trauma or alleged abuse are my top priorities. I help them establish positive coping skills for their time in the hospital, as well as for future events.

I think the hardest part of my job is knowing I can’t help everyone. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s emergency room is open 24/7, but the coverage consists of two specialists who work different 10-hour shifts. The emergency department might see up to 100 patients a day. Thankfully, we have a great multidisciplinary team and we do the best we possibly can together.

I believe Johns Hopkins would benefit from growing the number of child life specialists, not only in the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center emergency room but across numerous departments within the hospital. Psychosocial support for our pediatric patients is crucial to ensure healthy coping while in the hospital as well as during future medical experiences.

When I’m off, I like spending time with friends, going to movies and exploring Baltimore. The city really grows on you — it’s called Charm City for a reason.

When I received my official job offer after completing my internship, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I’m currently in my third year and I can see myself staying in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins long term.

 

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Alyssa Stewart, Child Life Specialist, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

3 Comments

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Comments

Tiffany February 26, 2019 at 9:18 am

What a valuable member of the child life team.

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Jonathan February 26, 2019 at 8:26 am

Great work! Thanks for all you do, Alyssa.

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Susan Gallagher February 26, 2019 at 7:42 am

I believe that Child Life Specialists are some of the real unsung heroes at Hopkins!!

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