Each summer between the junior and senior years of the nursing program at the University of Wyoming Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, students may opt to participate in summer internship programs offered by a variety of clinical institutions. Student Carly Baker, from Aurora, Colorado, met Chief Nursing Officer Nadine Dexter of Denver's "Eating Recovery Center" at the UW Nursing and Health Professions Career Fair last fall, applied for and was offered a summer internship.
"I have had the opportunity to shadow a nurse at Eating Recovery Center's Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents with eating disorders. I am also now fully trained as a Patient Care Assistant (PCA).
"As a PCA, I am with the patients throughout the entire day. I eat meals with them and redirect eating disorder related behaviors, take their vitals twice daily, supplement them for unfinished meals with Boost, and even (after having been trained to) lead groups in which we focus on skills related to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Not only have I learned a great deal about eating disorders, but I have also created a bond with the patients.
"Working with these patients combines two very different aspects of nursing: the physiological care of acutely ill patients and the emotional and mental care of patients with psychiatric illness. It has been challenging, exciting and very rewarding. Eating Recovery Center treats Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified. The specific facility that I work at accepts patients from ages 8 to 17. I have already learned so much in my short time here, and I'm excited to say that there is still much more to learn."
Baker says, "This past spring semester we all took the Mental Health and Illness course. While Professor Johnson did an outstanding job covering the many mental illnesses we may encounter in our careers, only so much time could be devoted to eating disorders. I have learned while working with the Eating Recovery Center that it takes two years to become certified as an Eating Disorders Specialist, so I still have much to learn. However, I do feel I was prepared to adapt and make independent decisions using critical thinking because our program teaches it so well. I was also immediately able to comprehend the various clinical skills that I saw performed because of the two semesters of Adult Health that I have completed....I have seen the evaluation of full electrolyte panels and CBCs [complete blood count], the placement of catheters and many NG/NJ tubes, phlebotomy, placement of 12 lead EKGs and their evaluation. and extensive interdisciplinary work. I have attended several team meetings in which a primary physician, therapist, dietician, nurse, patient care assistant and social worker all come together to discuss the patients."
...confidence in a clinical setting; experience with children; and a fierce reassurance that nursing is, without a doubt, the correct career choice for myself," states Baker. "I had no other interest in this internship than to gain a new experience. I can now say, however, that working with people struggling with eating disorders has entered the stack of cards for things I may wish to do with my future. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity and to be able to continue working with this amazing company for the remainder of the summer."