Rebecca Armstrong

Rebecca ArmstrongTitle: Child Life Program Director

Company: Presbyterian Hospital

Location: Albuquerque, NM, United States

Rebecca Armstrong is a Child Life Program Director at Presbyterian Hospital. In her current role, Ms. Armstrong is in charge of supervising high school and college internships, lecturing and fundraising, and assisting in the design of therapeutic play areas for children who are ill and disabled. She coordinates with her staff an annual health fair that teaches hundreds of children about hospitals and their services, runs child life programs, supervises play room, outdoor areas, four staff members and three counselors, and oversees the patient center care, neonatal intensive care and maternal special care, pediatric emergency, and parent and adult deaths. In addition to these duties, Ms. Armstrong is in charge of making sure non-contagious children get into the playroom and assigning them volunteers, supervising 80 volunteers as well as interns from various colleges, hiring and training, and conducting interviews.

In her capacity, Ms. Armstrong takes the lead on the development of all programs. She also provides therapeutic family support in the Adult Intensive Care, Cardiac Critical Care and Maternal Special Care units where pending demise and coping is addressed, interfaces with families and helps them to remember a difficult time with positive memories of the staff, and provides treatment in the hospital. Ms. Armstrong handles several committees, such as infection control, disabled park and children’s center quality, and serves as a member of the Neonatal Intensive Care Hospice Program and the Pediatric Update Annual Conference Board, considering topics to assist medical staff in gaining new knowledge.

Ms. Armstrong has received a number of awards and honors over the course of an illustrious career. She earned a Leadership Role for being an Advocate for The Well-Being of Children from the New Mexico National Association for Children. She was also selected for a feature in Pro-Files Magazine as a Professional of the Year in Health Care Support Services by Worldwide Who’s Who. Ms. Armstrong was inspired to pursue her career path by her experiences with cerebral palsy, as she was hospitalized throughout her childhood. Her surgeries were performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Her father was founder and chief of infectious diseases at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for 40 years, one block south of her hospital. She recognizes the support she received growing up in a medical family and does not take this for granted. When she received her counseling degree, she decided to study how children receive support in the hospital, and started volunteering at The University of New Mexico Child Life Program. She was hired there to supervise the playroom and focus on the development of chronically ill pediatric patients. Ms. Armstrong later accepted a position as Director of the Child Life Program at Presbyterian Hospital in 1998, where she is presently.

Ms. Armstrong attributes her success to her perseverance and passion. She also credits her strong work ethic, and a passion for education and family advocacy. She also credits the high school education she received at George School, which significantly influenced how she defined her path following graduation. The George School slogan is ‘Mind the Light,’ the sense of purpose is that each student ‘be who they are and trust who they can become.’ At George School, a student not only receives an education, the individual ‘begins to write the story of their life.’ There, her story began. The George School philosophy remains within her sense of self always; her story continues daily. With ‘Quaker tradition’ as it’s touchstone, the school seeks to develop citizen scholars cheerfully committed to openness in the pursuit of truth, service and peace, while extending stewardship with humility to the better good of their communities and the world at large. In short, George School encouraged the impressionable mind of youth, to ‘let their lives speak.’ This is what she has done, and as a result, she has a fulfilling and successful life. As a result, she is very thankful towards George School.

Devoted to providing quality care for patients and families in the hospital setting, she recognized the need for a children’s area to expand at Presbyterian. Ms. Armstrong spear-headed and assisted in the fundraising and design of a therapeutic play area at Presbyterian Hospital. A child whom had lived at the hospital for four years was the impetus in creating a unique indoor/outdoor therapeutic play area adjacent to their medical care where sunshine, growing herbs, flowers, sitting, reading, playing ping-pong or basketball were some of a multitude of options. Specific to the design, it was important to create a multigenerational environment that would allow adults to be able to sit back and relax as well. Hence, the “crown-jewel” of Presbyterian is referred to as Rachel’s Courtyard versus a playground. A courtyard implies a place of rest and relaxation. After five years of fundraising, a $1.5 million dollar structure was completed, named Rachel after a patient. Ms. Armstrong counseled the family through the demise of Rachel, their daughter. Rachel’s Courtyard is now appreciated by patients and their families of all ages, including adult patients who have children that need therapeutic support. She also believes functioning productively in society starts with family and core values.

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Rebecca Armstrong

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