During the summer of 2015 I worked as an intern for the Summer College Student Worker Program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. I spent my time with Stanford working as a vertical coordinator for the hospital’s Emergency Department, gaining experience interacting with patients, collecting vital signs/diagnostic tests and performing necessary duties in the fast-paced environment of the ER. By collaborating with the unit secretaries, medical technicians, nurses, practitioners and physicians of the Stanford healthcare team, I obtained knowledge regarding how the operations of an ER function through the positive work environment the Stanford ER possesses. As a nursing student interested in emergency medicine, this program helped broaden my perspective of the responsibilities and situations an ER nurse encounters daily, and I was able to participate in implementing a plan of care for patients.
The summer program was not only enjoyable and informative, but also a transformational experience I will never forget. From the experiences I encountered as an intern in the Emergency Room that improved my emergency medicine and trauma nursing skills, to the relationships I was able to build with co-workers on my unit, to the incredible people I had the opportunity to meet from all over the globe, all of this truly made the experience life-changing. As a first-year undergraduate student I developed an interest in emergency medicine, and this past summer reinforced this genuine interest, as I was able to learn from a team of positive, knowledgeable healthcare professionals that created an ideal learning environment. Before interning at Stanford I was unsure how I would react to the fast-paced, high-stress environment of an ER, however, after shadowing the nurses and gaining hands-on experience by working with patients in critical situations, I learned how to focus in on the tasks I needed to perform, while allowing other providers to perform tasks they needed to complete simultaneously. Since this work environment is very fast-paced, I learned how to prioritize nursing care, performing essential duties first then collecting crucial assessment data and diagnostic tests immediately after. The skills I developed as a nursing student were much needed in these traumatic situations, and I learned how to quickly apply the nursing knowledge I obtained in school to the various emergent situations I faced throughout the program. Many of the patients I encountered were Spanish-speaking as well, allowing me to practice my Spanish language skills. The Spanish language has been a passion of mine since high school, and while I am unable to pursue Spanish courses as an undergraduate in nursing, I was able to regain a majority of my speaking skills this past summer by conversing with patients. This professional transformation was accompanied by the personal transformation I encountered, as I lived in a culture that was unfamiliar to me and learned how to live independently in a new area.
As I traveled to California on my own, without knowing anyone prior to my departure, I knew this experience would be eye-opening and transformational, as I attempted to make an unfamiliar environment somewhat familiar. Upon arriving in California, I immediately seized the opportunity of getting to know the countless number of researchers, interns and students that Stanford University attracts from all over the world. From different parts of the United States, to France, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, Norway, China and more, I enjoyed learning about the unique cultures of my new friends, and together we traveled around California, learning we all had much more in common than our internship programs, despite the fact we were all from different parts of the world. With my new amazing group of friends I embraced the culture of the Bay area through traveling pursuits—together we visited nearby national parks such as Lassen Volcanics National Park and Yosemite, biked the Golden Gate Bridge, visited Alcatraz, explored Carmel Beach and Monterey, toured countless times through the city of San Francisco, kayaked the San Francisco Bay, went skydiving and ventured around Palo Alto and the Stanford campus area as well.
Along with traveling, I was also able to pursue external opportunities beyond the internship program, which also contributed to my overall transformation. At Ohio State I have been actively involved in service and volunteer events around the Columbus area, primarily those that cater towards the under-served and homeless populations. I brought this passion to California, where I got involved serving lunch to the homeless and under-served populations of the area at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. Every Thursday and Friday morning I biked to the church to serve for two hours, spending my time passing out desserts and mingling with the families that came in. I learned so much from hearing their stories and greatly appreciated all the life experiences they chose to share with me. The other volunteers I worked with were wonderful, and I was able to apply the knowledge and experiences I obtained through volunteer work at Ohio State to this unique opportunity in Palo Alto.
Beyond interning in the ER, traveling and volunteering, I also seized the opportunity to get to know my co-workers and fellow interns. I had the opportunity to get lunch with one of the nurses on my unit, who served as a mentor to me throughout the entire program, and she shared her nursing background and readily gave advice to me and the other intern on the unit. I also formed a strong relationship with the other intern, Faith, as we were able to collaborate throughout our shifts to ensure all necessary tasks were completed for the safety of our patients. Faith and I also shared ideas we had for the future, and together, we built strong relationships with the nurses on our unit, taking their advice into consideration and gaining their support. We also had a ‘Strength Finders’ workshop day, where all the interns from multiple areas of the hospital came together for the afternoon and got to network, talk about our individual strengths and discuss how we could utilize these strengths to create a hospital environment that is productive and positive for the well-being of staff and patients. I also spent time collaborating with the nurse manager of the ER, discussing ways we could improve the quality of patient care on our unit. I had the opportunity to partake in a small portion of an ongoing research project for the unit regarding the topic of patient telemetry monitoring during transfer between units. As an undergraduate researcher at Ohio State partaking in pediatric asthma education research through the College of Nursing, I spent time at an asthma clinic collecting data via survey distribution for my independent project, allowing me to gain research experience as well.
This experience has undoubtedly altered my perspective on emergency medicine and hospital operations as a whole in a positive way, and will serve as the catalyst for several future goals I have developed. Participation in this program showed me what it means to take a risk, set high expectations, and to have the experience be everything you could have asked for and more. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Stanford and out in California, and while I hope my career path and life someday leads me back out there, this experience has taught me that I should never fear the unknown or the unfamiliar regardless of where I end up, as there is so much learning to be done through taking a risk and exploring something new. While I am not sure where my life path will lead next, I know that I will keep an open mind and always be on the search for new opportunities to learn and enhance my nursing skills, wherever that may be, as every new experience can offer something to broaden one’s perspective. This past summer was transformative, and I will seek to continue with this transformation via future opportunities that unravel throughout my career path and life journey.