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Healthcare Internships Create Valuable Connections

Jul 17, 2017


students at healthcare internshipRandolph-Macon College students Harley Jones '18 and Kate Girtain '20 are spending the summer building skills, networking, and getting an up-close look into the inner workings of the healthcare field. Thanks to a generous grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Jones and Girtain are interning at The Innovation Hub, part of the Johns Hopkins Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. The Innovation Hub is a team of designers, engineers, technologists and project managers—known as Hubsters—who work on problems in healthcare that have been historically difficult to solve or opportunities to create the future.

Both students secured their internships by working with Jessica Majkowycz, assistant director of employer relations & internships for The Edge, R-MC's four-year career preparation program. The Edge provides students with a competitive advantage when applying for jobs or graduate school.

Jones and Girtain are interning under the guidance of Frankie Abralind, lead designer at the Sibley Hospital Innovation Hub. In addition, the students have worked alongside Nick Dawson '01, executive director of The Hub.

Harley Jones '18
Jones is a psychology and sociology/anthropology major whose main project is to evaluate Sibley Memorial Hospital's new-employee orientation.

"It's a formative part of the Sibley experience," explains Abralind of the new-employee orientation procedure, "but there's a lot of room to improve it. Harley built a multi-layered 'journey map,' which helps employees navigate the orientation process, and is now interviewing recently hired staff to hear how they feel about it."

Jones also conducts interviews with employees, patients, and members of the community on health literacy, cancer support groups, internal hospital communications, and the best ways to find access to fresh fruits and vegetables in "food desert" areas of D.C. In addition, she recently attended a Partnering with Patients conference at Johns Hopkins with one of Sibley's nurses.

Valuable Connections
"My internship not only offers excellent hands-on experience, but also allows me to get an early jump on making valuable connections with professionals," says Jones. "Working at The Hub helps me improve my brainstorming and creative-thinking skills and gives me insight into the world of healthcare and non-profits. I'm learning so much about how to increase the quality of care administered to patients—especially facilities that care for the elderly."

Mentorship is an integral part of the internship experience, and Jones is grateful for Abralind's guidance.

"Frankie does an amazing job of making me feel included and essential to all the work that goes on in the Hub," she says. "And working with Nick has been enlightening. Hearing his story of how he made the journey from student to professional is inspiring."

Abralind says the interns get extraordinary exposure to the real-life inner workings of a hospital, and a complicated healthcare environment, from a problem-solving perspective.

"In a single day they might interact with nurses, doctors, vice presidents, designers, volunteers, administrators, patients, and patients’ families," says Abralind. "They can see who works here and what their work looks like, then ask them directly over lunch or after a meeting how they got into that position. It bridges the psychological gap between what they want to do after they graduate, and what they think they need to accomplish before landing that job."

Jones, who on campus serves as a tutor in the Higgins Academic Center and is a member of the Sociology and Anthropology Club, the Diversity Council, the Student Athletic Advisory Council, and the softball team, plans to attend graduate school, where she will pursue a degree in social work and non-profit administration.

"My R-MC education, as well as the experience I'm gaining at my internship, are paving the way for grad school and a career," she says.

Kate Girtain '20
A chemistry major and biology minor, Girtain is the recipient of the Jackson Fellowship for Chemistry and the Dr. Paul H. Wornom Pre-Medicine Fellowship.

"I am grateful for both," says Girtain, who chose R-MC in part because of its small class sizes and the opportunity to conduct research through the Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Passionate about chemistry, she says, "No other subject challenges me and fascinates like chemistry. And I chose the biology minor because I want to better understand the intersection of life and chemical processes." Girtain is a member of Leadership Fellows, the Honors program, the Student Honors Association and the Pre-Health Society.

Girtain's main internship project involves working at Centre Sibley, which provides hospitality support to improve the patient and family experience at the hospital. For the past several weeks, she has been instructing patients on how to use electronic tablets to order non-clinical services and products more easily. Girtain is also working on a project that helps support cancer patients: She and a social worker are identifying and implementing support activities for patients undergoing outpatient chemotherapy.

Yellow Jacket Connections
Girtain and Dawson are also involved in a large project about healthcare access in Wards 7 and 8 in the District of Columbia. Together they have attended interviews with community members and "sharing sessions" with other participants to discuss what community members in Wards 7 and 8 think about wellness and healthcare access.

"One of the most delightful parts about working alongside fellow Yellow Jackets is seeing how mature, intellectual and capable today's youngest minds are," says Dawson, who majored in history and minored in English and computer science at R-MC. "I'm blown away by how Kate and Harley have 'shown up'—our term for being there, getting stuff done, being part of the team, being optimistic, being a Hubster. They comport themselves like professionals, carry the weight of the work like seasoned pros and flow into the creative parts of the job with ease."

Internships are the best way to immerse oneself in a career field, says Girtain, who plans to attend medical school to become a physician.

"Understanding how a hospital functions and how change is created in a hospital is invaluable. In my time at The Hub, I have learned so much about innovation in healthcare and how to improve the patient's experience in a hospital. The internship experience has made my decision to work in a hospital very clear."

Mentorship + Feedback
Abralind meets with Jones and Girtain each morning to discuss what they're doing that day, answer questions, and assign additional tasks. He often includes them in meetings with hospital staff about design projects he is working on.

"I run a book club with them, reading a chapter each week of Creative Confidence, a book on design," says Abralind. "I also meet with Harley and Kate one-on-one every couple of weeks. I give them feedback on work they submit, and I introduce them to hospital staff they're interested in knowing more about. Harley and Kate are terrific, and we are so lucky to have them."

Dawson says he and the rest of the Hubsters have enjoyed working alongside and mentoring Jones and Girtain.

"We have a philosophy of treating everyone on our team as equal, full members of our team," he says. "While it's untraditional and liberating, it can also be a bit foreign when we treat people early in their careers every bit as bona fide as people with many years more experience. Harley and Kate have fit right in!"