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Summer internship gives nursing students a dose of reality

Kaiser Permanente’s paid summer internship helps build a foundation for a caregiving career. Pictured, Aleesha Woodruf is a student nurse intern from Samuel Merritt University doing a summer stint at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center intensive care unit. (Photo taken prior to COVID-19 mask requirements. Please follow all current safety precautions.)

Watching the destructive progression of Alzheimer’s disease on her father and seeing her mother on dialysis for 10 years followed by a kidney transplant had a profound effect on Aleesha Woodruff.

“Seeing what they went through really opened my eyes to the world of medicine and nursing, and I wanted to learn more so that I could help others,” said the 33-year-old mother of 2 from Oakland, who is also 1 of 73 nursing students interning at 17 Northern California Kaiser Permanente hospitals this summer.

Aleesha Woodruf is juggling school, parenthood, and a Kaiser Permanente summer nursing internship.

Woodruff, a student at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland who will graduate in December with a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing, is working the paid internship in the intensive care unit at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.

The experience has ignited her curiosity and drive to help others and has given her a glimpse of the future.

“Honestly, I would really love to grow as a nurse in the ICU,” said Woodruff. “There’s this complexity to the care that is really challenging. Also, seeing the different disease processes and knowing that I am capable of understanding how to care for these patients is rewarding.”

The Nursing Work-Study internship, a program of the Nurse Scholars Academy at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, has been helping train the next generation for more than 15 years, said Jonalyn Wallace, regional director, Patient Care Services.

“As they work toward their degrees, nursing students participate in clinical rotations, but there is nothing like jumping in and working in a hospital 3 days a week,” said Wallace, who has overseen the program for 7 years. “Student nurse interns gain clinical competence and improved confidence, which better prepares them to transition safely into clinical practice when they graduate.”

The Nursing Work-Study internship provides exposure to the realities of clinical practice and gives interns an opportunity to master nursing skills learned in their academic program, Wallace added.

“During their clinical rotations the students are under tremendous pressure to learn and perform tasks and excel in their classes,” said Stacey Alves, director of Clinical Education and Practice Informatics at the South Sacramento Medical Center. “They work side by side with experienced nurses to integrate these skills and theoretical knowledge with the human caring side of nursing.“

Students get experience in a variety of skills, including how to communicate in a clinical setting, work as a team, and manage their time, as well as all kinds of hands-on procedures, from putting in a catheter to preparing and administering medications.

“They are always under direct supervision, so it’s really an invaluable experience for the interns,” Wallace said. “And our nurses who work with them are really involved in their development.”

Halfway through her internship in Oakland, Woodruff said some of the highlights so far have been administering increased doses of insulin to a patient over the course of several hours that involved precise monitoring and assisting a respiratory therapist in removing a breathing tube from a patient who had been intubated during surgery.

“I used the stethoscope to listen to the person’s breathing and to monitor their neck for spasms,” Woodruff said. “It was nice to be able to check up on this person afterward and get them back to some normalcy. There’s so much I still need to learn, but this experience is setting me up with a good foundation. It’s also helped me to see what kind of nurse I could be in the future.”

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