Child Life '11
I feel so fortunate that I got to come to Bank Street and become part of this community. The expertise of the faculty and the passion that everybody brings to the grad school experience are some of the things about Bank Street that I will always carry forward.
When Hilary Woodward was an undergraduate studying education at Loyola University, Maryland, a classmate was diagnosed with cancer and she wanted to find ways to help. As she researched online, she found a father who was writing about the various challenging medical encounters he and his sick child were experiencing. His story of their struggle with medical care—and how they worked with a child life specialist in the hospital—piqued Hilary’s curiosity. The more she learned about the field of child life, the more she understood that this career choice was a perfect fit for her goals. Her ambition to support young emergency care patients and families led Hilary to pursue her master’s degree in Bank Street’s Child Life Program.
Now, Hilary works with children with complex illnesses and disabilities in the pediatric emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Washington Heights.
“At first I didn’t know that being a child life specialist was a job I could have,” Hilary said, “but now, here I am, working with children who have been sexually abused, children and families who have taken a frightening trip crossing the border to come to America. Sometimes, there are children who are coming from foster care or others who are at the hospital with life-threatening situations. I help children and families to cope with the challenging aspects of their hospital visit. For example, that could mean helping a child who feels frightened about getting an IV or stitches for the first time. I show them what to expect in a way they can understand, often using some kind of age-appropriate play or distraction, so they can relax and better cope with a procedure.”
Along with working full time, Hilary is also an adjunct faculty member here at Bank Street Graduate School of Education. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the International Network of Simulation-based Pediatric Innovation Research and Education (INSPIRE), an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of children through healthcare simulation science. Hilary also teaches simulation to medical students as they practice how to meet the physical and emotional needs of patients and family members during an emergency visit.
“At Bank Street, we studied the structural issues and challenges that impact the families we serve, and how the systems in place affect us as caregivers, too,” Hilary said. “It is estimated that as many as 80 percent of children and families who receive extensive medical care carry with them some degree of trauma following an emergency medical experience, so we work within the system to train healthcare workers to mitigate the trauma before it happens.”
Because of her dedication to teaching these trauma-reducing skills, Hilary has been selected as a recipient of a 2023 Bank Street Alumni Association Outstanding Educator Award.
Hilary said, “I feel so fortunate that I got to come to Bank Street and become part of this community. The expertise of the faculty and the passion that everybody brings to the grad school experience are some of the things about Bank Street that I will always carry forward.”