Life After Merrimack: Briana Tierney ’16, Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital

Briana Tierney, a 2016 Merrimack College alumna, is a perfect example that hard work, passion and a strong support system creates professional success. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development & Human Services, Briana had a plethora of volunteer and internship experience that helped her land her current position as a Child Life Specialist in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of Boston Children’s Hospital. 

Boston Children’s Hospital

As an undergraduate student, Briana’s strong career direction perpetuated throughout her collegiate experience. Originally wanting to be a teacher, she learned early-on from experience in a classroom that she wanted to pivot her career. After speaking with her advisor about child life, she was determined to gain experiences that would help her to eventually become a Child Life Specialist. Over the next few years, Briana volunteered at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, working directly underneath child life specialists to learn more about the profession and gain real-world experience. Briana explains, “After going to the O’Brien Center [for Career Development] and researching hospitals in the area with child life units, I reached out to Newton-Wellesley. I volunteered once a week where I was treated like a practicum student. I was helping bring activities that were child-age appropriate, creating childlife curriculum and normalizing the hospital setting with children.” Her determination, passion for the industry and volunteer experiences ultimately landed her at one of her most memorable positions as a Child Life Intern at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee while a graduate student at Bank Street College of Education.

As Briana reflects on her undergraduate experience, she continually reiterates the importance of having confidence in yourself and taking risks that will continue to build your knowledge and experience. “I advise students to be confident in themselves and their abilities and know Merrimack has prepared you… but don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is what helps you become stronger and drives your work ethic and passion.” Briana also goes on to state the importance of having a passion in your career and being headstrong in achieving results. “Be strong-willed and don’t let anything stop you. Have drive, have your end goal set and no matter what road you take, that’s the road you are meant to be on. My heart was set on Child Life and I’d do whatever it took to become one. My drive and passion is what I use to keep going.”

Although Briana’s strong work ethic and passion are evident, she never passed up the opportunity to increase her knowledge of resources through the O’Brien Center for Career Development as an undergraduate student. “The O’Brien Center was one of the biggest parts of my foundation that helped me personally and professionally. I started going for just typical resume help while I was applying to different sites and then anytime I had an interview with a graduate school of in-person interview with a hospital. [The O’Brien Center has been] incredibly helpful for me, and I could not thank them enough for the support they offered.”

But in the end, it was Briana’s support system at Merrimack College that kept her motivated. “Merrimack really, truly was the absolute best thing that happened to me because they are so focused on making every student successful. I worked hard to get where I am, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without professors, staff at Merrimack or other friendships and organizations I was involved in. I had the strongest foundation of that support system… and that community has helped me get to where I am today.”

Interested in hearing more about Briana’s experience as a Child Life Specialist and the journey she took to get where she is today? Join us for the Human Development Alumni Panel on Wednesday, November 6, where you can hear more about Briana’s experiences and advice for students. For more student information, please RSVP on Handshake or reach out the O’Brien Center for Career Development at obriencenter@merrimack.edu or (978) 837-5480.

By Ashley Archangelo
Ashley Archangelo Events & Operations Specialist Ashley Archangelo