Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness

Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness

Jillian Harrington

A Leadership Experience

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to learn about the thrilling field of wilderness medicine.  Through the University of Colorado School of Medicine, I participated in an Emergency Medicine in the Wilderness program designed specifically for pre-med undergraduate students.  The first week of this program occurred at the Anschutz Medical Campus where I attended lectures, networked with medical professionals, and practiced skills in an educational environment that I would need for an emergency situation in the wilderness. The second week of the program put this knowledge and skillset to the test as we camped and backpacked our way through Golden, Colorado, facing emergency scenarios along the way. With minimal resources and an elevation of 9,500 feet, we were forced to work skillfully and efficiently to “save” our peers and instructors in a variety of simulated emergencies.

Although the purpose of this program was to learn about wilderness medicine, I ended up learning the most about myself. I was mentally and physically pushed throughout this experience in ways I never thought possible. Our first week of lectures and labs was a rigorous schedule of learning, sometimes ten hours per day, that mimicked a true medical school format. Our second week in the wilderness was even more difficult as the simulated emergency scenarios could occur anywhere at any time all with the added pressures of backcountry living.  This high demand uncovered a resiliency I did not know I had and the high-stress environment revealed my ability to remain calm and rational in a variety of situations.  Other than these revelations, I learned an incredible amount of skills and methods to treat a patient in the wilderness and about emergency medicine as a field. Our lectures and faculty presentations from physicians, physician’s assistants, paramedics, wilderness experts, and hospital administrators taught me how a hospital functions and what roles the emergency department plays.  Health care is a major topic of current political events and I was shocked to see the stark effects of recent health policies in such a short amount of time.  This program truly changed what I thought I knew about not only about myself, but about medicine as a whole and the future of healthcare.

One of the most enlightening experiences I had during this program actually occurred on the first day. I had the opportunity to take a break from lectures to shadow paramedics at a local fire department in Aurora, CO and ride along with their EMS team. Although my time with them was thankfully uneventful, the paramedics shares dozens of stories about medical cases they have seen and common reasons they are called throughout the community. After mentioning I have an interest in obstetrics, one of the paramedics began sharing stories of the seventeen babies he has delivered and began teaching me terminology and techniques for a successful delivery with little to no supplies! The rest of the team had plenty to share as well from tips on how to stay calm during an emergency to tools in their medical kits and how to use them.  This shadowing experience was only a small portion of my itinerary but it was incredibly valuable to see the implications of emergency medicine at the community level.  Here, EMS workers have the special ability to provide emergency care and public health education to their own neighbors.

Of all the lectures I attended at Anschutz medical campus, my favorites by far were those that allowed me to engage in hands-on learning.  The undergraduate pre-med curriculum is largely focused on abstract ideas in basic science.  This program, however, gave me an opportunity to actually learn medical principals such as how to build a shin splint, what medications to give to a patient suffering from altitude sickness, and even how to diagnose different causes of abdominal pain.  Our lectures were a very realistic introduction to medical school and gave tremendous insight into the process of becoming an M.D. or P.A.  Because we were actively involved in the learning process, we as students also had the unique opportunity to be each other’s patients and practice splints, tourniquets, and other first aid with our peers. Not only did this program allow me to have a greater understanding of medicine from a physician’s perspective, but also appreciate the empathy and compassion desired from patients.

The second week of this program at Camp Granite Lake in Boulder was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Our lectures continued in the wilderness setting and topics were directly applicable to our environment, especially those relating to altitude. Work was balanced with play however and we were fortunate to end our educational sessions with hiking, rock climbing, and exploring our surroundings.  This week was centered around realistic emergency scenarios and practicing these skills in a genuine wilderness setting reiterated my training from the first week.  Here, I developed great confidence in my skills and an ability to thrive under pressure with merely a backpack’s worth of supplies.  Our scenarios varied in regularity and extremity from a simple case of heat exhaustion to a complex triage of patients injured in rock fall.  Though I spent the beginning of the program afraid of this intensity, I grew to love not knowing what cases would come next and watching myself become more efficient with each challenge.

These two weeks in Colorado left me with memories and skills I will take with me in my next years at Ohio State and beyond. In the academic setting of Ohio State, I have a reignited passion for medicine and greater understanding of my professional trajectory. In my everyday life, I am confident in my ability to thrive in the midst of an emergency and help those who cannot help themselves.  I am now a certified Wilderness First Responder trained in CPR and have a strong foundation of emergency medicine knowledge and leadership experience to help a patient in the wilderness.

Emergency and Wilderness Medicine

Alex Crum

Leadership

I participated in the University of Colorado’s Emergency and Wilderness Medicine program. During the program I was able to learn how to treat implications in an austere environment ranging from cuts and blisters to major trauma. The first week of the program was lecture based at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus, while the second week of the program took part at a campsite in the Rocky Mountains to further solidify the material through practical scenarios.

The program transformed my understanding of myself, as well as provided a new perspective. I entered the program without knowing anyone, and left with a large network of individuals, like myself, who all developed leadership skills, a new understanding of teamwork, and a stronger connection to medicine. Before the program, although I could effectively communicate with colleagues, and associates, these interactions were all in controlled settings. Through the practical scenarios, I learned how to manage and cooperate in situations where time is short and stress is high. This newfound skill can be applied to a variety of situations. For example, maintaining the “keep cool” mentality while facing an obstacle could be practical while subduing stress preparing for an upcoming midterm. This skill is applicable in any circumstances because it is advantageous to quickly analyze the situation, see all variables, consider potential obstacles, and formulate the best strategy through the implication instead of making hasty decisions and potentially making the circumstance worse.

The first week of the program took place at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus. Throughout the day we would attend lectures on a range of topics such as altitude sickness, common respiratory issues, trauma basics, pediatric emergency medicine, and more. Practicing the techniques during practical scenarios further solidified some of the material. We were able to continuously develop our techniques of applying splints, making a tourniquet, etc. After learning about the cardiovascular system and some implications we explored, visually and actively, the main organ through cow heart dissections. Learning about a variety of topics made me realize the importance of obtaining a deep understanding of the basics, because treatment is the manipulation of these basics. For example, mountain sickness is caused by the decreased availability of oxygen at higher altitudes. Therefore, in an actual event where an individual is experiencing altitude sickness symptoms, since I know that it is caused by a lack of oxygen being transferred to parts of the body, then I know that to treat the options are to provide the individual with oxygen through an apparatus, or descend elevation.

Outside of the classroom based learning, many of us took advantage of the resources by shadowing in the emergency department at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH), and also participating in EMS ride-alongs. This provided the opportunity to explore the emergency medicine specialty through active observation of the physician’s interactions with patients in treating their illnesses. Seeing the interpersonal relationship between patient and physician solidified even further my desire to pursue medicine. The EMS ride-alongs gave a different perspective to medicine outside of the roles of the physician in treating a patient, proving that the treatment of the patient is a group effort. My time spent with both activities made me appreciate the social aspect of medicine. During undergraduate education, our required pre medical curriculum makes us focus on the physical science of the mechanism behind the disease. However, in real world practice, medicine has many more components to it. The social aspect of communication with the patient, and building rapport with comfort and confidence in your words is sometimes overlooked when thinking about the responsibilities of a physician. But these are essential qualities that a physician must have in order to gain the sufficient knowledge of what the actual issues are from the patient, and to provide the patient with a safe healing environment and support.

Practicing the scenarios in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains helped strengthen our understanding of what to do in particular emergency events. It also made certain techniques available to practice that we were unable to practice on the medical campus, such as how to make a litter out of tree saplings to help evacuate a patient that has an unstable injury. Being given a situation, having to analyze the environment for clues to pick up on, discovering the complication and formulating a plan to combat the complication and considering future obstacles was beneficial to practice what we learned in lecture. It also helped to build our communication skills through collaboration with our team members, and it also helped to develop a new pattern of thinking in high stress situations. This was really exercised during scenarios where multiple patients were involved because our group of responders needed to divide the duties but keep each other on the same page. The importance of staying calm, and being precise in observing and decision making, is translatable to a multitude of situations not just related to wilderness medicine. If the person who is trying to help solve the issue is stressed, and is not careful with every action, then there is potential to make the situation worse.

These changes and experiences have already impacted myself professionally, and aided in my personal development. My ambition to be involved in medicine professionally has been reaffirmed by participating in this program. The skills that I have learned, how to deal with difficult situations systematically and realizing the necessity for efficient collaboration with others, for example, will only make me a better physician, a better student and a better responder in the future. Without effective communication, one part of a whole will cease to benefit the whole, and in many cases may hinder the overall progress of the whole. But when each part maximizes the distribution of responsibilities, and can reliably communication then efficiency can be maximized to accomplish any task. Being a physician, and the rigorous process of becoming one will present me with many different situations where my teamwork, leadership, and problem solving skills will be put to the test. With this transformative STEP experience, I now have traits that will help me succeed.

Healthcare Immersion Experience

My STEP signature project focused on creating a personalized learning experience throughout the summer. I hope to attend graduate school to become a physician’s assistant and I used my STEP project to help me experience the heath care field in a way I never had before. I became a state tested nursing assistant (STNA), shadowed physician’s assistants, and volunteered at a hospital.

This experience was transforming for me for many reasons. I did not set any expectations for my experience in the beginning because I was not completely sure what to expect. But, I ended up loving every moment of my project from start to finish. I began this project knowing that I love to help people, but not having an outlet for this passion. I ended this project with experience helping people as well as a way to continue doing so in the future. I learned a lot about myself because the difference between knowing what you want to do and actually doing is huge. Caring for another individual is much harder than it seems , but is also incredibly rewarding in the end. Each step of my project gave me inside about the medical world and about myself.

Seeing patient care from different perspectives gave me an inside look at what I would be doing daily later in  life. I assumed that this would be easy for me, but sometimes it can be hard and sometimes it can be very sad. Even though I thought I was strong and could handle seeing  most everything, there are things that can still affect me. For example, during the clinical hours of my STNA training, I actually had to work in a nursing home helping to feed, clothe, bathe, etc. the residents. This was hard because these people used to be young like me and now they cannot do anything on their own. Upon reflection after this clinical, I was sure that choosing healthcare was the right decision for me. I was passionate about each resident I cared for and felt so successful after making them smile or knowing that I had done a good job. I know that it is easy for people to go through the motions in this sort of job, so I knew that if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing it would be just as easy for me to fall into this routine. But, it makes me happy to help other people and I learned that this work is hard but very rewarding. I am also happy that I completed this project because it has given me confidence in the path I have chosen which was something I didn’t have before.

My STEP signature projected consisted of 3 parts and each contributed to my transformation over a one month period in their own way.  As I mentioned before, my STNA class had a big impact  on my transformation. I learned how to care for someone on the most personal level which is something I have never done before. I was able to grow in my love for helping others and obtain a certification that will allow me to work in the hospital and do it for a living which is a huge step in my journey to becoming a physician’s assistant.

Job shadowing was another thing that impacted my transformation.  I shadowed a physician’s assistant at Beacon Orthopedics in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was able to observe during clinic hours and during outpatient surgery. Clinical hours were great because I was able to actually see health care from the eyes of a person that I aspire to be. I was able to observe bedside manner and how to communicate successfully with a patient. I also got to see exactly what a PA does when assisting in an operating room which is something I would enjoy doing during my career.

As a volunteer at Good Samaritan Hospital, I helped out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where premature babies are taken care of until they are healthy enough to go home with their parents. Here, I was able to cuddle babies as well as participate in activities that made the families feel comfortable and welcome in the unit. Cuddling is a technique used to calm babies that were exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb. The contact with another person calms them and helps as they go through painful withdrawals from the drugs. This opened my eyes to a serious health problem in our society and one that I would be interested in working with more in the future. Many babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome

The transformation I made during my project is vital to my personal and professional goals of getting into PA school and becoming a PA. This project created a confidence about my career path in me that I did not have before. I gained shadow and volunteer hours that will help me get into graduate school. I made connections with a PA who can write me recommendation letters in the future, which will also help me in getting into graduate school. Also, my new certification will allow me to work in a hospital and gain the patient care hours that are the most important necessity in my graduate school application. Overall, this project has really increased my chances of one day achieving my dreams and I am very happy about that! I feel much more prepared for the future after gaining real experience and giving myself the chance to continue doing this for the next few years before I begin graduate school.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of me during my shadowing experience in an operating room!

 

High Sierra Leadership Expedition Reflection

1.This summer I embarked on a 23 day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. The experience challenged me in ways I never could have expected, thus allowing me to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally. During the 23 days of backpacking our group of 12 participants trekked through snowy mountains, hiked over arduous mountain passes, crossed flowing rivers with glacier runoff, cooked dehydrated food over portable stoves, and slept in tents. We did not see civilization for the entirety of the expedition, but we did meet interesting people from all over the world and witnessed sunsets over mountain ranges that I could not have dreamt of.

2. The High Sierra Leadership Expedition changed me. The challenges presented to me on the trip felt intense, and more often than not, overcoming these obstacles required my full attention. I had to be completely aware of my surroundings and in tune with the conditions of my body in order to complete the physical challenges of hiking the John Muir Trail. In addition, this journey made me feel more conscious of the power of the mind than anything before. This 190 mile hike indeed a proved itself as a physical test, but more than anything it was an extreme exercise in endurance and mental toughness. Early on I realized how critical it was to live day by day, and when the path got steep, I learned to break it down to step by step. By living in this mindset, I understood what it meant to live in the moment and be conscious of your surroundings. By being present I allowed myself to find fulfillment in the moment, at the task at hand, rather than some distant future. This made every experience feel more extraordinary. Instead of being preoccupied by checking another thing off my to do list I noticed the vibrant wildflowers and awe-striking mountains. Acting in such a manner not only made the journey more enjoyable, but led to better performance.

3.

Twelve participants embarked on the backpacking trip, and the majority of us began the journey with no prior backpacking experience; therefore, the first few days of hiking proved vigorous and taxing on the body and mind. I think we all internally questioned whether we were up to the challenge. On the morning of the third day on the trail, one of my peers vocalized his concerns to the group. He explained how he felt worried that he would not be able to complete the 190 miles and scared that he was slowing the group down. His concerns were legitimate, but he was psyching himself out too much. Everyone reassured him that he was not alone in his doubts, but that he had to believe in himself.I shared with him my techniques for coping with doubt, which included thinking positively, practicing gratitude for a body healthy enough to move and carry oneself up mountains and for having the opportunity to be out here enjoying the stunning views. I also stressed the importance of looking at the bigger picture. Yes, our body’s ached from the miles and weight of the pack, but that soreness would soon turn into muscle and by the end of the trip not only would we return physically stronger, but mentally stronger. This experience taught me that if we can push through hump, which already felt like the most challenging task of our lives, then any issue at home or at school will seem menial and we will conquer it with no problems.

Experience similar to the one described above interweaved themselves periodically throughout the entirety of the trip. These moments of weakness followed by reassurance opened my eyes to the power of maintaining a positive mindset. I learned that thinking positively makes every experience more enjoyable and makes every goal seem more achievable. From these experiences, I saw how having a positive mindset motivates those around you, and contributes to an overall well being.

4.

This change is transformational and valuable to my life because I feel like I have adapted a new mindset that will allow me to be a healthier, more productive and more charismatic version of myself. When one is truly present, then he/she enters a state called flow, and we fully experience the things going on around us. Acknowledging this will prove valuable for all aspects of my life because life is sure to be filled with experiences and in order to grow from them, I need to be present.

The High Sierra Leadership Expedition also influenced my life, for I learned what it felt like to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, and grow from it. I noticed that while reflecting on the trip, I wouldn’t dwell on the bad stuff, instead I would reminisce on the experiences that made me feel alive. I found this interesting, that we remember things as better than they were, and I think that this can be partially attributed to the fact that it is often from negative experiences that we grow, which is vital for being happy. This realization relates to my future plans for I know that I will seek out experiences that facilitate personal growth for myself and others.

 

For more insight on my experience visit my blog  . 

For more photos visit my website.

Leadership Development: A Summer with Kids

1. This summer, I had the opportunity to work full-time as an assistant teacher in a preschool for children, ages four and five, with disabilities. The summer program lasted for ten weeks and allowed me to work with the lead teacher to design and carry out activities, learning centers, and trips for the 20 children we were in charge of. We came up with ten different themes, and each week had its own theme that the activities and trips were centered around.

2. I have always had a passion for dedicating my time to helping others, especially those in dire need such as the homeless, sick, and dying. I have had the opportunity to volunteer in various homeless shelters in the Cleveland and Columbus area over the past several years and in hospitals and hospice facilities. However, my STEP signature project allowed me to step slightly outside of the healthcare setting and into a new environment with a lot more responsibilities than I had ever been used to. I was now in charge of 20 children with special needs with the help of just one other teacher. As cliche as it may sound, words can not even begin to describe how much this program allowed me to grow into an independent, confident, and responsible leader in just ten short weeks. I went into this position not knowing if I would be able to get anything out of it. Being responsible for so many children who all needed so much attention seemed like a task I was not ready to handle. I had no experience with this particular age group, and I felt overwhelmed and apprehensive. However, I quickly learned I just needed to have an open mind and let myself learn as each day went on. I learned skills such as patience, which is crucial for working with special needs children, especially at such a young age. Patience was always something I struggled with; being pre-med, I am used to a fast-paced and always moving lifestyle. My STEP experience allowed me to truly practice patience every single day, and now I am able to adjust my outlook on life and allow life to move at its own pace. A future in the healthcare field will require an immense amount of patience on a daily basis, and this experience helped me to practice this important virtue in a way I would have not typically thought would do so.

3. Throughout my STEP experience, there were a variety of events and interactions that took place that allowed me to grow as an independent leader. For example, I had the responsibility of leading daily activities for the group of children. I had no prior experience working with this young age group of children, and on top of that, I also did not have prior experience working with children with special learning needs, like ADHD, PTSD, and underdeveloped motor skills. Throughout the summer, I learned something new every day about these children and how they best learned. I was able to tailor an activity to each of their needs, so that they were able to participate in what was planned for the day. This made each child feel special and appreciated, which was a goal I had in mind throughout the summer and strived to accomplish each day.

Once a week, we took the group of children on a trip that went along with the “theme” of the week. For example, one week we went to the Great Lakes Science Center, a personal favorite of mine! The kids were able to participate in science experiments appropriate for their age, explore the center, visit the planetarium, and much more. I was beyond excited for this trip especially, being a science major. I was able to bring my passion for science to the trip and help engage the children in the activities they were participating in. The kids had the time of their lives, and we all were able to learn something new that day. I made sure to keep each child’s personal learning needs in mind throughout these trips, one of my responsibilities as a leader. Each child learned in a different way, and some needed more time and attention than others. While this made the summer slightly challenging because there was such a large number of children in the group and only two leaders, I truly do think it helped me rise above my comfort zone and put a large load of responsibility on me, helping me to grow into a more well-rounded leader.

Finally, the aspect that I admired the most about my STEP project was the interactions and relationships I made with not only the children I took care of all summer, but also their families. While the program only lasted a short 10 weeks, I built such strong relationships with the children and their families that I will be able to cherish even after the program ended. The families were so appreciative of my dedicated time and attention I put forth in order to help their children have a fun-filled, educational summer. The families of the children had to put a great deal of trust in me to have me spend 40 hours each week with their child, helping them to develop skills necessary to help them excel in life and in their education.

4. My STEP signature project has left me with memories and lessons I will never forget, no matter where life takes me. At first, I was skeptical when this opportunity came up. Being pre-med, I felt like I had to do something directly related to healthcare. However, at the same time, I realized that I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone that would allow me to strengthen my leadership skills, something that is absolutely critical in the healthcare field. I am so thankful that I chose this specific STEP project regarding leadership because I feel like I am capable of so much more and have grown into a stronger leader, even if the experience only lasted a short ten weeks. Before going into this summer, I was nervous about having to care for so many children and lead them through a new activity each day of the week. It was extremely challenging and frustrating at first. As the days went on, I dedicated my time to these children and built strong relationships with them and their families, so that I could better understand what was best for them, how they learned, and what their needs were. It got easier as time went on because I was able to form such strong bonds with them. I knew I loved working with kids for a while, but this experience definitely strengthened that passion for me. It takes a great deal of patience and passion to work with children, and I do believe I have that. The field of pediatrics is one that I have considered pursuing after attending medical school, and this STEP project was just another experience I now have that will allow me to get closer to obtaining that lifelong dream of mine.

 

Leadership Development: Chicago

For my STEP Signature Project, I went to Chicago, Illinois on a mission trip with Cru, an international college student organization. In the duration of my 10 weeks, I worked alongside my student and staff mentors to shape my character and develop leadership skills, and learned to discuss spiritual beliefs with people of various backgrounds at college campuses.

A night view of the city of Chicago.

While I was in Chicago for the STEP Signature Project, I was exposed to various religions and was taught why other students believe in different religions. I learned how to be more social and comfortable around others, both with people on the mission trip and those who I met on college campuses. The project also let me learn about and mature my mindfulness of others.

Multiple times over the summer, I went onto different college campuses around the city of Chicago to give students opportunities to discuss their spiritual beliefs. I had interesting, deep conversations about religion with a wide variety of students, including students who were Hindu, Muslim, atheist, and believers of other faiths. Having only thoroughly explored the Christian belief, I was enthralled to learn about other beliefs and how other people have embraced them as their own, in addition to seeing how others live out their beliefs as students and employees. Through these conversations, I was able to learn empathy toward others and understand the point of views of people from differing backgrounds.

One of the games used to encourage students to talk about their day and beliefs.

The project also helped me to become more social and comfortable around people I do not know. I did not know any of the students who I was going to spend the 10 weeks with. I also did not know any of the students that we approached on different college campuses. However, I gained the ability to step outside of my comfort zone to talk to the other members of the mission trip and get to learn more about them as various people came to talk to me and learn about me. Going onto college campuses and having conversations with strangers gave me practice to start conversations with new people. These chances I had to talk to peers I had not met yet let me become used to seeking ways to befriend new peers and have better, more in-depth discussions with people I have not met before.

While being in Chicago, my mentors and peers on the mission trip walked with me to develop an attitude of kindness. My mentors pointed out ways that I could be friendly to my roommates also on the mission trip such as asking about their day at work, and I started to find ways on my own to be kinder to them, such as washing their dishes and asking questions about their plans for the day. In addition, I helped to serve the community dinners served to all of the members of the mission trip. Helping with the dinners made me more conscious of how I interact with others, in addition to addressing details that people tend to forget, such as cleaning up after each meal. By being guided by my mentors and getting to serve dinners to others, I learned to become more humble and serve others better.

These changes that happened over the summer are critical in my life because the experiences helped me develop my leadership skills. For me, leadership skills indicate the ability to keep a goal in mind and make sure others understand their own role in reaching the goal. By talking to various people, I can understand diverse groups of people better. By learning about ways that I can show kindness to others, I can communicate my own desires and understand their desires. By becoming humble, I can understand that each role in a team requires different work, and administer the work fairly among different people. The STEP Signature Project gave me the chance to develop my leadership skills in a way that was unique to Chicago and this summer with different people that I met and learned to interact with.

My Summer at Stone Lab

Kenan Mathews

Leadership

 

My STEP Project was serving as a student worker for The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie. My main tasks involved preparing food for the students and staff on the island, maintaining the island for visitors and guests, and working at the Aquatic Visitor’s Center (AVC) and helping children fish. I also had the opportunity to sit in on talks about the research that is done on Lake Erie and learn how much of an impact Stone Lab has on the lake.

The various tasks as a Student Assistant at Stone Lab definitely kept me on my toes and required me to adapt to the changes of the day. I also was able to learn more about the island, the laboratory, and the people that maintained it and worked there, even when classes were not in session. While working I took a five-week Animal Behavior class on the island. The course I took was a topic that I have been interested in for years and Stone Lab allowed me to have a hands on approach to concepts that were taught in class.

Being at Stone Lab taught me the importance of the laboratory itself and the research that goes on around Lake Erie. During my training for the AVC, I learned about the different types of fish that live around Lake Erie and had to know how to identify them if any of the children caught one. While learning about the fish I also learned about the invasive species in Lake Erie that were displacing the native fish. The talks given by researchers each week gave me a chance to see all the research that was going into removing the species and improving Ohio’s water quality.

Working also gave me the chance to operate some of the boats on the island in order to get from Gibraltar Island to Put-in Bay (PIB) depending on where I was working for the day. Even after being trained on how to properly operate the boats and dock them I was pretty nervous on driving one over to Put-in Bay, so I let the more experienced drivers take control for the most part while I sat back and watched what they did. Unfortunately, I only had one opportunity to watch before I was tasked with taking one of the managers over to PIB and after an interesting docking attempt, I don’t think he ever rode with me again. Sometimes I was pulled from a job that I was doing to complete another task that was more important for that day, which also required me to drive between the islands by myself and I had to get pretty good, in order to avoid crashing in Lake Erie. Although I’m clearly not ready for any sort of captain’s license, I am confident enough to operate an outboard boat at any time.

Taking Animal Behavior not only helped me get four credits of my major done, but it also gave me a better perspective into my field. For the past few years I have talked about how much I wanted to learn more about animal behavior and possible go on and pursue it as a career. For the class were required to spend ten hours observing an animal and then writing a research paper about a certain aspect of a behavior that was displayed. Gibraltar Island and Put-in Bay only really have a few species of birds, snakes, and fish, and after spending hours observing the foraging and eating behaviors or robins I can say that I still want to do research in animal behavior but not with any sort of bird. Working and classes helped me work on balancing my life as I had class from eight to four on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and worked Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for at least eight hours. I initially didn’t think I could take up the load of studying to pass my class, working every other day, and socializing with others at Stone Lab without being exhausted but by the second week I found a rhythm that carried me through the rest of my time there.

My experience as a student worker helped me personally with balancing the tasks in my life and learning that repetition helps build confidence, even if it means bumping the dock a little too hard the first couple times out. It also allowed me to work on soft skills as I interacted with guests who came to visit the AVC. Academically, not only did I knock a few credits out, but I learned so much more about the importance of Lake Erie to Ohio in terms of its economy and its water quality. Professionally, I was able to learn that while I do want to eventually go into research, I do not want to spend my time discussing fish or birds and would prefer exotic animal research instead.

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Heartland: Life-changing experiences for the kids who need it most

This past summer, I had the joy of working as a camp counselor at One Heartland in Willow River, Minnesota. One Heartland is a place where youth facing social isolation and/or health challenges can come together with others facing similar situations, and just be kids. One Heartland truly is a special place that I have come to love with all my heart. It is a place where campers and staff alike experience acceptance, love, laughter, pure happiness, sing silly songs, wear goofy costumes, and create life-long friendships. One Heartland’s motto is to “provide life-changing experiences to the kids who need it most,” but it was also a life-changing experience for me. Working at One Heartland was one of the best and most transformational experiences of my life.

During my time at One Heartland, I became more confident as a leader. I am now more comfortable in leadership roles and speaking in front of groups of people. My time at camp also allowed me to become more knowledgeable and have a better understanding of diversity. I am more likely to acknowledge and appreciate diversity and to advocate for diversity when needed. My experience also changed the way I view the world. I am more appreciative of life and the people around me, and I better understand the importance of verbally expressing that appreciation. Being at camp also gave me a better understanding of my career and life goals. I now have a clearer idea of my passions and purpose in life.

Being a camp counselor at One Heartland completely transformed my abilities as a leader. Every day at camp, I was expected to be responsible for a group of up to 8 children. I had to ensure that they were both physically and emotionally safe, and that they were having fun. It was a lot of responsibility and it took some time to get used to. I had to know where my campers were at all times and I had to make decisions about the safety and well-being of my campers very quickly. I was also responsible for leading a variety of different skills and activities each day. I had to plan the activity ahead of time, lead the activity, and manage camper behaviors during the activity. There were also times when I had to lead my coworkers when planning a program, delegating tasks and ensuring that they were done. These experiences leading both campers and my co-workers have made me much more confident in my leadership abilities. I feel more prepared to lead in any situation, now that I have had extensive experience. I have seen this change in my daily life as I am more comfortable when speaking in front of groups of people and sharing my ideas, such as when in class.

At camp, I experienced diversity on a level that I had never before encountered. I worked with populations of youth that I never expected to specifically work with. One Heartland offers camp sessions for youth facing social isolation and health challenges, such as those infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, wanting to achieve a healthy lifestyle, living in transitional housing, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Working with these populations of youth was a great experience and gave me a better understanding of diversity. Interacting with the campers on such personal levels gave me an insight into what many members of their specific populations go through. It gave me a chance to understand their needs and their strengths, and it allowed me to challenge any preconceived notions or biases that I had before this summer. It was an experience that was really invaluable as a future social worker, and as a human being.

My time as a camp counselor changed the way I see the world in so many ways. Working with children and young people who had been through so much in their short lives was truly inspiring. I watched as children who had faced challenges that I can’t even begin to imagine let go of their struggles for the week they were at camp. They were able to look passed their challenges, come out of their shells, and have fun, which was an incredible process to witness. In addition, before every meal at camp, we had something called moment of appreciation, where cabins of campers and their counselors would stand up in front of the entire camp to say something that they appreciated. Throughout the summer I was able to hear children who had been through so much say something about their life that they appreciated. I heard so many say how appreciative they were for their families, friends, and life, and I heard camper after camper express how truly appreciative they were for camp, their fellow campers, and their counselors. Listening to the amount of appreciation that these kids and teens had was so inspiring and has made me much more appreciative of the things in my own life. Another way that camp changed my worldview is that it caused me to be more optimistic. My coworkers were sincerely the kindest, most caring people I have ever met in my life. They gave me so much support and fully accepted me for who I am. I have never felt more loved, accepted, and appreciated than when I was at camp. Being surrounded by these incredible people gave me hope, because I know that they are making just as much of an impact on others as they made on me. I believe the world would genuinely be a better place if everyone experienced the amount of kindness, love, and support that I experienced at camp.

Being a camp counselor at One Heartland also caused me to have a better understanding of my career goals and my passions. I have always known that I want to work with youth throughout my career, but my experiences at camp have cemented and narrowed that focus. I realized that I want to work with diverse populations of children who have experienced challenges, in a setting where they get to momentarily look passed their struggles, just like at camp. I want to help kids be kids and have fun and forget about the stress they normally face. Whether this means I end up back at camp or in a similar setting I’m not sure, but I have a clear picture of what I want to do.

These changes that my STEP project brought about will be very significant for my life. They will have a profound impact on my professional career as a social worker. My increased confidence and leadership abilities will allow me to stand out as a leader in my field and increase my ability to help clients create change in their lives. My appreciation for diversity and the challenging of my biases will help me to be a better social worker. I will be able to help more populations of people by acknowledging our differences and then working together to create change. My professional career will also be more directed in what I want to achieve now that my goals and passions have been made clear. My life itself will also benefit from the changes of my STEP project. I am now more optimistic, hopeful, and appreciative of life, all because of my experience as a camp counselor. One Heartland truly changed my life, and I am so happy and grateful that I could experience the magic of camp thanks to STEP.