I am so grateful for the opportunity to be accepted into, and participate in the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students program at the Huron Region Medical Center! I gained wonderful learning experiences and received fond memories that will help guide my future career choices.
The big question people asked me throughout this experience was, “You’re from Superior, Wisconsin! That is pretty far away, so how’d you end up here?” The internship was a long way from home, but I was thrilled to learn about this opportunity when Cheri Buffington came to our class at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell this last semester looking for nursing students to include in the REHPS program. I was interested from the start because it seemed like such a unique experience that I had not heard of anywhere else. Superior has a population of around 27,000 people and is ten minutes’ drive from Duluth, Minnesota which has 84,000 people, so I do not tend to say that I am from a rural area. Further, I have little experience living and working in a rural setting. So, when Cheri introduced this internship, I knew that this was an experience I had to jump on, and I am glad I did, because it showed me how important every part of the healthcare system is – from the maintenance all the way to doctors – each is imperative in making a hospital run.
I was a little nervous first coming to Huron because I did not know anyone here, except for one classmate (who was also a REHPS student). Yet, I was greeted warmly by Dennise and Kurt Brock. They welcomed me into their home and treated me above-and-beyond any expectations. They always asked me how my day was and made sure that I was fed well. Dennise also ensured that our experiences at the hospital ran smoothly, and that all the interns were enjoying it. She also made sure that we were comfortable and confident when we had to do things we were not used to. For example, once we had to call people back who had been tested. She stayed with us, guided us in what to say, and helped us until we were comfortable handling the people who were called back.
Throughout my experience I was able to see many different branches of healthcare beyond nursing. One of my favorites was with Occupational Therapy because I learned a lot about lymphedema and the lymphatic massage. Amber, the therapist, was a very good teacher and explained why she would do things and how things impacted the lymphatic system. Working with patients through the different branches of nursing was so interesting. One patient came in for a total hysterectomy and I was allowed to see the surgery. She was then was moved to medical floor and I got to take care of her there. Unfortunately, she had a situation develop after she was dismissed and needed to be seen in the Emergency Department and I was shadowing there, so I got to help care for here in that environment, too! It was cool to see how the three different branches treated her and to be able to compare the similarities and differences from my experiences.
A truly fascinating thing that I was able to be a part of was helping at a COVID testing site. The interns did not do the actual testing because of the exposure, but we were able to get patient’s information. I was impressed to see how smoothly it all went. Though it was extremely hot that day and my scrubs were soaked afterwards, I nonetheless see it as was one of my favorite experiences! Other areas that I was a part of were: Medical Floor, OB Floor, Material Management, Maintenance, Cardiac Rehab, Physical Therapy, Lab, Food Service, Outpatient, and the Clinic.
Overall, it was amazing to see how personal and relational rural healthcare is. Everyone I met was extremely nice and was always willing to answer questions. I appreciated getting to know the healthcare workers of Huron, and it has made me consider joining a rural healthcare site after graduation. This whole experience has made me grow as a nurse, given me insight to how I can work with the other professions in the hospital to ensure that the healthcare goes smoothly, and demonstrated how important interprofessional communication is to everyone in the hospital/clinic. I would highly recommend this program to everyone entering the healthcare profession, because it is such a unique offering for any nursing student. It is a very important experience as it broadens the focus from our one branch and extends it to the whole healthcare setting. That knowledge allows us to work and communicate with each other better than we ever could!