As a psychology major, I was delighted to participate in an internship during my senior year at the Sheppard & Enoch Pratt Hospital, in Baltimore, MD. During this semester-long experience, I had the opportunity to work within a psychiatric hospital on an inpatient unit that served individuals dealing with short-term hospitalization needs. As a result of this experience, I was able to obtain a very clear picture of all of the services and resources needed to assist individuals with managing their psychiatric diagnoses in a community setting. Not only did I interact with the patients, both individually and in groups, but I also was fortunate enough to have significant conversations and dialogue with doctors, nurses, social workers, and families of the patients.
In addition to my regular responsibilities on the unit, I was fortunate to have a supervisor (the nurse manager of the unit) who was very interested in understanding what I wanted to achieve as a result of the internship. I was thrilled to have the chance to spend some time on other units to see the different ways that patients were treated, depending on their diagnoses. For example, I was able to spend a day on the unit that treated individuals with chronic schizophrenia. The strategies in working with these patients to achieve their goals (discharge into the community) in the hospital were focused on medication stabilization as well as behavior modification.
As a result of this internship, I chose to take on a year-long intensive independent research project focusing on the topic, “The Deinstitutionalization of Patients with Chronic Schizophrenia”. I was fortunate to partner with a faculty member at my school who was a clinical psychologist with her own practice. As a result of the research and the internship experience, I was able to develop a very clear understanding and empathy for the issues involved with working with individuals with this diagnosis. Subsequent to my graduation from college, I embarked on my first career…working within a nonprofit psychiatric rehabilitation organization to assist institutionalized patients with the transition to community living. Despite my age, I was one of the more qualified candidates to interview for this position BECAUSE of both the internship and the research experience. I worked within that setting for three years before I eventually chose another path (higher education), but I will always be grateful for the lessons that I learned in those experiences that help me to be an empathic advocate for the students with whom I work.
Lesson #1: Everyone has the potential to lead a fulfilling and satisfying life; the definitions of fulfilling and satisfying are different for every person. My role is to help the people with whom I work to identify what those things mean to them.
Lesson #2: There are an abundance of resources available to people who need help (no matter what kind of help). Identifying those resources is sometimes the biggest challenge.
By: Tracy Carter, Career Coach, Career and Professional Development Center