“What does it mean to champion children?” In our Champion Series, we answer this question by providing a closer look at the daily practices and routines of Arkansas Children’s team members as they help make kids better today and healthier tomorrow.  

Almost everyone who drives a car has circled a parking lot waiting for someone to pull away and leave an empty spot. Justin Smith, a shuttle driver for Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), takes the opposite approach. In one of ACH’s shuttle buses or golf carts, Justin circles our parking lots, looking for recently filled spots. As a team member or patient family exits their vehicle, he asks, “Would you like a ride?”  

Justin, a new addition to the ACH team, was hired to help Arkansas Children’s visitors, patients and team members navigate the campus while it’s being transformed as part of a $318 million expansion project. The ACH campus spans 36 city blocks, so even before construction began in March, walking from one end to the other was a significant hike. Construction machinery and work zones have triggered changes to walking paths and parking lots. Arkansas Children’s added a new 10-seat, air-conditioned van to its fleet of shuttle vehicles to increase the availability of convenient, comfortable transportation around the detours.  

The most interesting part of Justin’s shift is the people who take advantage of the expanded service. We spent three hours with him on a Friday morning that started at 6 a.m., right before the night shift staff left and the day shift staff arrived. By 9 a.m., Justin had transported over 40 people from one of ACH’s dozen parking lots to one of the hospital’s entrances and sometimes from an entrance to their car. On a morning that was unseasonably cool and overcast, flashing lights and upbeat music playing on the van’s sound system lightened the mood. The van is equipped with a ramp that allows those in wheelchairs, wagons or strollers to be wheeled inside.  

Passengers taking advantage of the new van during our 3-hour ride-along included:  

  • A woman with three young children in tow  
  • An ACH team member who said, “I’ve got a bad knee. I didn’t feel like climbing up that hill today.”  
  • A family with three children, two of whom were in a wagon  
  • An ACH team member carrying a large box to her new office   
  • Several nurses who were using the shuttle service for the first time  
  • A nurse involved in a research study that splits her time between the hospital on one end of campus and Arkansas Children’s Research Institute on the other end of campus  
  • A pair of team members Justin described as ‘regulars’ who call for shuttle a little before 9 a.m. most mornings  

During our three-hour visit, we met a variety of passengers and heard three different languages. Justin said it was a light morning. Typically, he shuttles 125-145 passengers over a six-hour shift. Tracking the number of passengers using the service will help the Arkansas Children’s Patient Transport Team decide when and if to add more vehicles and drivers.   

Currently, the fleet includes two vans and a golf cart that can carry five passengers. Most days, Justin drives a van for part of his shift, then switches to the golf cart. Regardless of which vehicle he’s piloting, Justin greets everyone he drives past. “A smile and a wave can go a long way,” he said.  

He spent years driving for Uber and Lyft and learned how and when to engage with passengers. Justin speaks fluent Disney, thanks to his daughters. He talks about the songs, movies and short films with young passengers. His experiences as a parent also help him empathize with parents and caregivers. A short walk across a parking lot feels a lot longer when toting a toddler. “I’ve carried my fair share of car seats,” Justin said. He’s also quick to remind passengers that the shuttle service runs in both directions, reminding them to request a ride back to their cars when their appointment or shift ends.  

Providing a lift is not always about easing someone’s burden or making a trip across the hospital more convenient. Sometimes, children (and adults) want to ride in the golf cart or van just for fun. Drivers like Justin champion children by brightening their day or lightening their load while helping them get to Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s nationally ranked care.  

Arkansas Children’s shuttle service  

  • Runs 6 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Monday-Friday  
  • ACH Security is available for transportation on weekdays after 8:30 p.m. and on weekends  
  • Shuttles regularly patrol the parking lots and building entrances and can be called for a scheduled pickup 


Are you interested in working at Arkansas Children's?

Browse the list of open positions across the Arkansas Children's system.

View available jobs