Spring break destination: Hospital internship for Lakota teens

While their classmates were off enjoying spring break last week, some Lakota students were “diving deep” into the medical world by working shifts as interns at West Chester Hospital.

It’s career exploration by design under Lakota Schools’ expanding biomedical internship program that has seen the number of participating high school students more than double in four years from 40 to 90.

“We realized for our students to really, truly be college and career ready they need field experiences beyond the classroom and high school,” said Lon Stettler, assistant superintendent and director of the school system’s various internship programs.

West Chester Hospital was Lakota’s first business partner four years ago.

“For us it’s a deeper dive of experience that consists of multiple sessions or rotations. We wanted it to be more than just a one-day field trip or a job shadow for a day. We wanted students to have exposure to professionals in high-demand areas,” said Stettler.

Students follow doctors, nurses, physical therapists, lab technicians, radiologists, emergency room personnel and even observe surgeries.

Lakota West High School junior Erin Smith had no regrets about spending four hours per day during the district’s spring break — and the week prior — as a member of the biomedical internship staff.

“It’s really interesting and I didn’t know there was that much to do in a hospital. Seeing what goes on at a hospital has helped me see overall what the medical field is because there are so many different fields in one place here,” said the 17-year-old who plans to study optometry or pharmacy in college.

Lakota West classmate Hem Patel said he was immediately struck by the differences between hospital work as portrayed in entertainment media as compared to reality.

“We all come in here with idea of thinking we know what goes on but what we see on TV or the internet are completely different from what really goes on. On TV a lot of things are dramatized a lot, but when you come in here in real life, it’s not as chaotic as it’s made out to be,” he said.

“Everyone knows exactly what they need to be doing, where they are supposed to be and exactly what they have to do. Like in the ER (emergency room), you think it’s a chaotic place but soon as someone comes in everyone knows what they are doing. It’s not nearly as dramatic as you see on TV,” said Hem.

“I really appreciate this program,” he said. “First of all, if we were making the decision to go into the medical field without realizing the realities of it we wouldn’t even be able to know if we would be able to handle such a thing. It’s nice to see exactly what we are getting ourselves into before jumping into it and it’s too late for us to go back.”

Lakota officials said internship experience is intended to provide students with relevant, real-world career exploration experiences as a part of the district's STEAM2 initiative for furthering exposure to science, technology, engineering, arts/design, mathematics, and the medical field beginning in elementary school.

Stettler, who helped create Lakota’s internship programs, said many participating students return to their regular high school classes emboldened by their time in the adult work world.

“This helps them to find out what they are passionate about,” said Stettler. “And their self-confidence can shoot through the roof.”

For more information about the West Chester biomedical internship and other career internships during the summer and into the 2016-2017 school year, visit www.lakotaonline.com and click on “internships” in the far left column.

About the Author