Emily Howe, Health Science major with minors in Spanish and BioEthics and an active member of the Commuter Advisor Program and the Commuter Student Association, began her Junior year at Merrimack College with a drive to gain as much experience as she possibly could. While Emily was certain the field of Health Science was the right path for her to take, she still remained uncertain of a career that would best suit her interests. With an open mind and the determination to learn as much as possible, Emily logged on to her Handshake account to secure her next experiential learning opportunity and to discern a future career option.
Soon after, Emily landed an internship with AFC Urgent Care Methuen. Initially as a healthcare Intern, Emily was required to perform administrative duties to keep the office operating efficiently, such as handling the insurance and registration of incoming patients. Although an engaging experience, Emily knew she could derive even more knowledge with AFC Urgent Care by gaining more hands-on experience in the healthcare industry. She expressed her interest to learn all that she could from her co-workers and supervisors, ultimately helping her to land her current position: shadowing medical officials firsthand.
Emily’s ability to work on patients alongside medical professionals so early on in her internship may come as a surprise to many healthcare students.. However, Emily expresses that such a feat does not necessarily need to be a rarity for healthcare interns. In reflection of gaining firsthand medical experience with AFC Urgent Care staff, Emily stresses, “I realized it was what I was putting into it that made [my internship] such an awesome experience, because I wanted to learn so much. When you show how much you want to learn, that’s when you get more from your experience, because [the medical officials] will let you try things and help out as much as possible, but only if you show that you really want it.”
Emily reflects on just how valuable her interest and pursuit of hands-on experience during her internship was to her career development and experience as an intern. She conveys, “I’ve learned that there’s so much you can’t learn from the book. You have to learn it firsthand from professionals to really understand everything. You learn a lot of the foundations in school, but when you actually see it firsthand and not just a picture in a textbook, you really develop new skills.” While her academics and lab practices provided her with the education she needed to comprehend the nature of the field, Emily stresses she needed to witness the day-to-day routine of medical professionals to understand the reality of a healthcare profession beyond the classroom.
As a former Undecided student, Emily understands the perturbation of figuring out how to begin the search for a field that best suits one’s interests and, consequently, an internship to build upon the necessary skills required in the working world. Reflecting on her past actions, Emily encourages her peers to consider the significance of their professors and faculty at Merrimack College on the development of students’ success beyond academia. She recalls, “the faculty can always give you a lot of advice if you don’t know where to start. I asked the head of Health Science if he would meet with me and just talk about my future, and he did, which really helped me to figure out what I wanted to do and where to start.” Emily even utilized her advisors to aid in her internship search in finally discovering the right fit for her; “the School of Health Science really helped me to narrow down which internship to do based on my interests, which I would not have been able to do without the help of the faculty.”
Emily’s expression of her desire and willingness to gain professional knowledge from working with patients and performing medical tasks made such an impression on her coworkers that she was offered a position at AFC Urgent Care following her internship. Emily exudes elation as she discusses all that her internship led her towards in her career and academic progression. She expresses, “everything about it has been really beneficial because it gave me a ton of experience and opened the doorway to a job. It really made up my mind, and I feel like I’m another step closer to finding out what I want to do as a career.” Emily stresses the need for students to keep an open mind during any experiential learning opportunity and take in all that they can from the work they do and the professionals they interact with. The outcomes inevitably allow their career development to flourish — and may just secure them a place in their desired field. She continues, “I’m going to keep this job even after I graduate and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I hadn’t been an intern. It even made me want to do another internship, which I’m going to do this fall.”
An experiential learning opportunity should encompass more than simply an additional component to a resume upon the its completion. An internship can serve as a pivotal point in a student’s understanding of their career choices, self and may even present students with an opportunity to work in their future industry before graduation. The possibilities that stem from gaining experience in the working world early on are inexhaustible, as Emily’s internship at AFC Urgent Care clearly demonstrates. The extent to which you gain from your internship depends on the effort you give; it’s up to you to make the most of your experience.
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021