Pre-health program provides clinical hours to give participants a practical advantage
Ever since Kenny Peterson (pictured above) was young, he’s wanted to be a vet — and it shows. He greets each pup at Midwestern Small Animal Clinic, where he’s interning, with a big smile and a gentle rub. The pre-health bio major genuinely loves the work he’s doing, and he’s getting to do it while he’s still an undergrad at Arizona State University.
In the past, students majoring in pre-health disciplines had to practically jump through hoops just to get a decent amount of hands-on medical experience during their undergrad years. Now, ASU’s Office of Clinical Partnerships’ Pre-Health Internship Program (PHIP) is providing a one-stop shop where they can apply for and be matched to internships that provide them with the relevant clinical hours they need to gain the experience and edge they need to go on to med school.
Pre-health majors come from a variety of schools and colleges within ASU, and this program is for all of them. Before it existed, there simply wasn’t a coordinated effort between all of the schools and colleges aimed at helping students get internship experience, said Renae Larcus, manager for health internships at ASU; they each had their own way of doing things.
So the task for Larcus and her colleagues was to identify how to provide a coordinated approach for students looking for clinical internships. “The intent was to create a one-stop shop where students could do the application process and be matched to a placement site that fit them,” she said.
There are three sessions available: spring, summer and fall. The program placed its first cohort of 19 students in the summer 2015 session, and that number grew to 40 for the summer 2016 session. For this fall’s session, they anticipate to place 125 pre-health students in clinical internships.
Elena Ion participated in the program’s spring 2016 session and has since graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s in microbiology. She was placed at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, where she shadowed doctors and nurses.
While she learned the basics, such as how to take a patients’ vitals and administer medications, she also learned some unexpected lessons. “We had this one child — poor kid — 11 years old, and he fell into a cactus,” she recalled. When removing the needles became too painful for him, the doctor made the decision to sedate the boy. Before that could be done, though, he had to explain to his parents why, how and what they were about to do.
“This internship gave me the opportunity to see how the doctors interact with patients, and how the nurses interact with patients,” Ion said. “I learned that you have to make sure that people understand what you’re doing. You can’t just walk in and tell them in scientific terms, ‘We’re going to do this,’ because if they don’t understand, they might get scared, and then you don’t have that trusting doctor-patient connection.”
Christina Islas is the program’s placement specialist, working with pre-health majors at all four ASU campuses. She serves as the liaison between the students and the placement sites, which she tours ahead of time to meet the staff and get a rundown of what the students will be doing on a daily basis.
“Having this opportunity opens a lot of doors for students,” Islas said. “Actually, getting to have these experiences first-hand, before medical school is an eye-opener. And the majority of placement sites are doctor’s offices and clinics, so they get to understand the business part of it, too.”