As a child life specialist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, Rachel Jones has a caseload of 10 to 15 infants and toddlers.
You earned a B.S. degree in Family Studies and Community Development/Child Life from Towson last year, and now you’re pursuing an M.S. degree in Child Life, Administration and Family Collaboration. You must like Towson.
"I do! When I was in high school, I looked for a college that wasn’t too big or too small, and wasn’t too far from home. It needed to have good programs and a good teacher/student ratio to ensure individual attention. Towson was just the right size—I really liked all it had to offer, and it’s only about an hour’s drive from Washington. Now I’m pursuing a master’s degree, which is pretty exciting."
Rachel and Megan Greffen are both child life specialists in the hospital’s child life and therapeutic recreation department.
As an undergrad, how did you find out about the Family Studies/Child Life program?
"I originally enrolled as a pre-nursing student. My grandmother is a pediatric nurse, and seeing her inspired me to work in a medical field. I figured nursing was the only way to be with kids, but then I found out about Towson’s Department of Family Studies and Community Development, which offers a Child Life track that would prepare me for a career as a child life specialist. Changing majors was the right decision for me. I applied for admission to the new M.S. program as a senior and went straight into graduate studies."
What do child life specialists do?
"Child life specialists address social activities and developmental skills. We provide a support system for children who are hospitalized, helping them to understand their surroundings and the procedures they undergo. Where younger children are concerned, we often provide a support system for the entire family. We assess children’s developmental skills when they enter the hospital, then assign the goals needed to keep them advancing during their stay. We defer to physicians and nurses on the medical issues, but we can interpret what they say in ways that kids understand."
Rachel meets with program director Lisa Martinelli.
Which faculty members have influenced you?
"Professor Lisa Martinelli really made a difference for me. She’s a good support system,
encouraging and always there to talk. Dr. Karen Eskow, who chairs the family studies department, is always available if I have questions. She really promotes the field—a lot of people don’t know much about it."
You’re also working full-time in the field?
"I’m a child life specialist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, which is a rehabilitation facility. I have a caseload of 10 to 15 infants and toddlers, and I focus mainly on developmental issues. I really enjoy working there and would like to stay after I earn my master’s degree next year."
How do you think you’ve made a difference in children’s lives?
"When I think of all of the kids I’ve worked with—whether in my practicum and internships or at the hospital—I believe I’ve touched them all in some way. I know they’re better off for having a child life specialist involved in their care. When children are discharged, they all say they want to see me again, but I tell them I want them to come as visitors, not patients."
How will the M.S. help your career?
"A master’s degree will open opportunities to advance in the field—to become a program director, for example. Down the road I’d like to start a child life program at a hospital that doesn’t have one."