While sharing information about nutrition, birth control and diabetes last summer, Katelyn Sellars experienced what it would be like to have face-to-face interactions with patients in a clinic. The nursing student at Eastern Mennonite University said the opportunity helped increase her confidence and learn about holistic approaches to patient care.
Sellars interned with Mary’s Center, a community health center, while studying at EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center. WCSC programs run in the fall and spring semesters, and in the summer. Students are placed in internships relevant to their majors and prospective career paths; they benefit from vocational mentoring and career exploration.
Nursing, pre-med and other pre-professional health sciences majors have great opportunities in Washington D.C. for challenging internships that complement their programs of study and help them better understand the life experiences of the patients they’ll be working with as professional clinicians, says program director Professor Ryan Good.
The program has a strong reputation for placing students in internships that often lead to full-time job offers after graduation.
“WCSC’s program has enabled our nursing students to gain experience in the health care field that significantly broadens their perspective and prepares them for the workforce,” said Professor Melody Cash, undergraduate nursing program director. “Our students return with increased confidence, increased skills, and practical knowledge gleaned from interacting with colleagues in the field.”
Internships such as those offered through WCSC also provide nursing students with valuable professional references when they begin job hunting, Cash added. “These experiences always provide opportunities to not only show capacity for but also grow in professional communication, teamwork, collaboration and organizational skills.”
Read more from Sellars about her experiences below:
How does your experience at WCSC build on nursing coursework and experiences?
Being a nurse in a hospital and being a nurse anywhere else look completely different. In Mary’s Center I was able to see nurses in roles that I did not even know were nursing fields. For example, their Employee Health Nurse performed N95 fit testing, reviewed employee health records, handled employee illness reports, data analysis, and much more.
This internship allowed me to get a better understanding of patient populations. In community health you can get to know your patients and form a connection that allows for trust and long-term education. You can see patterns in the communities that you are serving and learn what needs to be done to address the larger issues that are causing health discrepancies. For example, Mary’s Center mainly serves low income Latinx populations in DC and Maryland and because of that focus, they gained an understanding of community needs and what might address those needs.
What have you learned about yourself?
Too many times to count, I have gotten the question about what line of nursing I would like to go into after school. The opportunity to speak to nurses in different positions in Mary’s Center allowed me to bounce my ideas off of them and get insight into how their journeys in nursing looked. This has given me greater confidence in my plans for nursing and has helped me focus in on what I would like to do in healthcare.
What skills will you take with you?
In nursing school, most patient education work is theoretical, so I really benefited shadowing opportunities. I was able to observe educational appointments about nutrition, birth control, and diabetes. I also learned eClinicalWorks, the software that Mary’s Center and many other practices use for health records and practice management.
Share with us a highlight of your internship.
One day, I paired with a medical assistant to travel to two patient homes. In the facilitated telehealth program, the MA can take vitals, draw labs, give vaccines, and use technology to connect the patient with their provider. The MA I was paired with told me how she finds this line of work to be extremely fulfilling. The patients who qualify for the facilitated telemedicine program are usually homebound and have chronic health conditions. We discussed how this also allows Mary’s Center to provide holistic care and address the patient’s social determinants of health. The MA is able to help patients apply for food supplementation programs, give references to case managers, and assess their home environment.
If you could change something about healthcare, what would you change?
Healthcare is expensive; we all know this. I don’t know the best way to solve this problem. People who are low income and/or are uninsured are stuck dealing with health conditions that worsen because they are unable to seek treatment and they are unable to afford preventive care. Washington DC has DC Healthcare Alliance which provides medical insurance to “low-income District residents who have no other health insurance and are not eligible for either Medicaid or Medicare.” Residents are eligible for DC Alliance regardless of immigration status, and many patients in Mary’s Center utilize this program to help with their healthcare needs.