What My First Summer Internship Taught Me

Monday, July 27, 2015

[the one about my internship at a local hospital.]

Who: Yours Truly.
What: A Summer Student Internship that focused on inviting and enrolling patients to the Health System's Patient Portal.
When: 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, Memorial Day though last week. 
Where: Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS) ― more specifically outpatient clinics.
Why: I am recovering from ACL-reconstructive surgery and I wanted to stay in Richmond and finish with the same physical therapist, and I needed a way to finance living away from home.
How: My physical therapist, Rebecca, handed me an application two hours before it was due ― a phone interview and a few weeks later, everything fell into place.

Let me just start off by saying that I have absolutely no interest in medicine. None. Zilch. Nada. I still cry when I see needles ― I know, you're probably thinking why on earth I ended up working in a health system (I know I did for at least two full weeks of work). That being said, I have definitely learned so much from this internship that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

1. How to show up

I know this doesn't sound like much, but I think it's a lot more understated than it should be. Sure, as a student we show up to classes and club meetings and practices and things like that, but, for the most part, our attendance only really affects us.* When you are expected to show up somewhere and do your job, there is so much more importance on your attendance and accountability.

2. How to wear long pants in 90 degree weather (+ humidity)

For someone who is not at all used to southern humidity, learning to wear long pants all summer was a serious change. In the bigger picture, though, this translated to learning how to dress in a professional environment. When we "dress-to-pin" for chapter and other occasions, the dress code is supposed to be "business casual," which most girls have simply translated to "nicer that what you would wear to class." I love the way the Health System defines this dress code ― "business casual is simply a comfortably relaxed version of traditional business attire with no sacrifice of professionalism or personal power" ― and think it's something my chapter could definitely start implementing.

3. You may not always know best (and that's okay)

When I came in to this experience, I thought that my feedback and ideas would be invaluable to the projects and task at hand. I'm a smart, hard-working, determined young woman, so why wouldn't they be? Well, sometimes logistics are stacked against you ― fret not, there are worse things in life that not having your advice considered. The point of internships is to learn. To expand your horizons. At the same time, you can't expect someone to hold your hand throughout the entire process, so make independent choices, and take responsible for the fall out (positive or otherwise).

4. That I definitely underestimated a 40-hour work week

Sure, I had a desk job that involved mainly customer service related issues, and sure I was inside all air-conditioned and not doing anything super labor-intensive, but a 40-hour work week was exhausting. I would get home ready to take a nap until dinner. And then I would remember that if I wanted to have dinner I had to make it myself, and that the same thing went for lunches. Not to mention laundry, dishes, and general house-keeping. If nothing else, this experience gave me so much respect for working parents every where. *snaps for you*

5. "There are far, better things ahead than any we leave behind."

There were times during this internship that I really struggled and felt discouraged because I felt like I wasn't helping anyone (even though I definitely was). This experience taught me that I'm the kind of person who wants to be able to see the fruits of her labor ― it was hard to know that anyone was enjoying their access to the portal because it really wasn't something that most patients volunteered. When I got discouraged I really had to remind myself that this was temporary. That my reasons for being here were to be close to Rebecca, and that I needed to focus on getting better and getting stronger so I could go back to the sport I love. Summers have always been a transition period for me, but this summer was especially. I felt myself transition from teenager to young adult. I got to go on adventures independently to places I'd never been to before. I got to learn how to take care of myself ("adulting").

I also learned a whole bunch of things about the clinics I was working in (pediatric gastroenterology especially), but mostly I learned how to function in a new setting, a work place, like a young adult. That being said, I could not be more excited to be back home with my family, taking a break from this whole "adulting" thing.

Happily yours,


*I recognize that team practices and discussion-based classes may seem like an exception to this rule. #sorrynotsorry

No comments:

Post a Comment