Finding opportunities to explore health professions as an undergraduate is challenging in today’s health care system. Due to liability challenges, hospitals and health care facilities have been limiting the number of volunteers, job shadows, and interns that can work in their facilities. But at Gustavus Adolphus College, partnerships with Mankato Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health System, and River’s Edge Hospital in St. Peter offer Gusties ample opportunities to get an inside look at the business of healthcare.
This past January, those long-standing partnerships allowed Gustavus to offer an exclusive opportunity to 16 pre-health students to observe a variety of medical professionals. This learning opportunity was designed specifically for students to observe a variety of medical professions, observing the patient/provider relationship and subsequent interactions, diagnostics, and treatment.
Students had the unique opportunity to spend more than 35 hours per week in a hospital/clinic setting for the month. This opportunity allowed them to learn about health careers and, in the process, learn more about themselves.
“One thing I have learned about myself from this experience is that my compassion is the driving force that will lead me to succeed as an undergraduate student, a medical student, and a practicing physician,” sophomore biochemistry major Jack Healy said. “The most important part of medicine is patient care, and I think that sometimes people forget that amongst all of the other important factors of medicine.”
Students expressed surprise and excitement at the varied opportunities for exposure to the healthcare field. The partnership program also allows students to see the interconnectedness of medicine and the different roles of each medical professional. “My highlight from this experience was having the opportunity to watch a surgery,” sophomore psychological science major Hannah Stroebel said. “It was a fairly complex procedure, yet the medical staff in the operating room was extremely calm and collected. I observed that a successful surgery requires the close cooperation of many operating room personnel. The surgeon, nurses, and nurse anesthetist all knew their roles and responsibilities and were prepared to execute them quickly and confidently. Their confidence along with their experience working with one another is what allowed them to keep such a relaxed attitude, which was neat to see.”
Sophomore biology major Nicholas Reiners appreciated the opportunity to experience several different areas of the healthcare field and spoke about his favorite rotations. “I would have to name my three favorite areas: first, neurology. This includes my rotation in the specialty clinic and sleep center. Second was my time spent in the Heart Center with cardiology,” he said. “However, the most interesting area was probably my time spent with social services in psychiatry; the mental/behavioral side of health care is so interesting to me.”
One of the goals of the January Interim Pre-Health Career Exploration is to highlight through observation the complexity of the health care profession. All sixteen students successfully completed the experience and for many of them it brought clarity and confirmation to their career direction.
“I have learned that I am on the right career path for myself. I woke up every morning excited for the new things I would observe and learn that day, indicating that this field interests me a great deal,” sophomore biology major Erin Traxler said. “Furthermore, I learned through discussions with other doctors and providers that I am on the right track to become a doctor.”
Heather Banks is the Health Professions Coordinator in the College’s Center for Servant Leadership. She serves as the advisor for pre-medical, pre-pharmacy, and pre-dental students and is responsible for working with students interested in the health professions and helping them explore different career possibilities.
“We feel very fortunate to have such exemplary healthcare facilities and so many outstanding healthcare professionals within a close proximity to the College,” Banks said. “The collaboration with students is a valuable experience that can’t be matched. We look forward to the continued partnership in the future.”
Sophomore biology major Kendyl Greimann agrees with Banks that getting out of the classroom and spending time inside a healthcare facility is something every student considering a career in the health professions should consider. “It was an awesome experience!” Greimann said. “I would recommend this program to any sophomore pre-med student in the future.”
The 16 students who participated in the January program were Greimann, Healy, Reiners, Stroebel, Traxler, Janessa Anderson, Kalyn Botzet, Tucker Carlson, Megan Crow, Mariah Grant, Maddie Kalthoff, Sara Kullberg, Lindsay Ortlip, Elisabeth Pederson, Shelby Roles, and Courtney Tusler. If you have questions concerning pre-med opportunities at Gustavus, you can contact Banks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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