It seems like everyone is getting sick. I was out sick for the better part of the past week, as were several of my co-workers. Colds and the flu are making their rounds.
Do you want to work in healthcare or a health-related field? If so, what kinds of internships or career-related experiences might you find? As an undergraduate, direct patient experience can be difficult to come by due to liability issues. However, related experience is super important for learning more about the field, building your resume and/or qualifications for a professional school application, and demonstrating to future employers/professional schools that you are serious about the field.
Depending on the health field and/or professional school programs you are considering, specific amounts of health-related experience might be necessary. Even if it’s not a requirement, you should still gain substantial experience both to test your interest and to demonstrate a concern for others – an important characteristic for those in a health profession. Remember that the quality, not just quantity, of experience is important, too. A quality health-related experience is one in which you can see healthcare being provided.
Here are some ideas for gaining related work experience in a health profession while still an undergraduate:
- Community Service – Volunteering is a great way to gain experience in a health-related environment. Check out UW-Whitewater’s Volunteer Opportunity Clearinghouse. You can find opportunities in Walworth, Jefferson and Rock counties as well as in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. While you are not providing direct patient care, you are often working with patients or clients in some capacity. You might be working in a hospital providing assitance to patients as they wait, or you might be doing activities with nursing home residents. It’s this people-directed attitude that is becoming more in demand of those in the health professions. Volunteering demonstrates this focus and provides valuable opportunities to develop strong communication skills, another attribute becoming increasingly important among healthcare workers.
- Paid Positions – While they require special training and certification, it is possible to obtain paid jobs in a health field while still a student. Such jobs include:
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- X-Ray or Lab Technologist
- Home Health Aid/Care giver
- Health Education Programs – Some agencies might hire students to serve as health educators. UW-Whitewater University Health & Counseling Services will often host interns to work in health education. Work experiences you may have in such a role include developing brochures or displays; co-facilitating health education programs in the residence halls or for student organizations; writing articles for the RP, Healthy U newsletter, or website; and/or developing and staffing an outreach booth. Much of the work involves a great deal of research into a health-related topic which you then teach to your peers or other clients.
- National or International Experiences – There is no better way to spend your summer than using it to gain career-related experience. Consider participating in a work experience program outside of Wisconsin or even outside of the US.
- Research Experience – While research experience is seldom required for admission to a professional school program, it is still extremely valuable. Research experience allows you to develop important skills, and it also reflects intellectual curiousity and motivation. You are also developing your network by working with a faculty member. A letter of recommendation from someone you know as both an instructor AND as a research supervisor can be a great asset to a professional school application.
I am finally back on the mend, and I hope the same goes for you if the cold or flu bugs have gotten to you, too. Stay healthy!