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Summer Internship Provides Hands-on Experience for Local College Student

Published in Medical Professionals

While looking for summer work opportunities in his hometown of Willmar, Aidan Donelan, a student attending South Dakota State University, learned about the Summer Health Care Internship Program (SHCIP) available through CentraCare.

"This program was exactly what I was looking for," said Aidan. "A broad experience in a hospital setting where I gain experience in the healthcare field."

The Summer Health Care Internship Program brings students and employers together to give students experience in a healthcare environment. Administered by the Minnesota Hospital Association on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Health, CentraCare in Willmar was awarded one student internship grant for the summer of 2023. Aidan was selected to participate in the 10-week internship based on his application and student qualifications.

Interest Leads to Experience

Aidan with his parents, Kent and Stacy Donelan

Aidan has always had an interest in health care. "Both my parents are healthcare professionals," he explained. "My mom is an RN who now works in the pathology/histology lab, and my dad is a pathologist. Along with my interest in healthcare I have always gravitated towards science courses in school and have found them to be the most enjoyable."

Currently majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Chemistry, Aidan was interested in the anatomy program at college and spent his last semester as a lab assistant aiding in teaching anatomy lab. "This fall I’ll be on the human cadaver dissection team at SDSU," said Aidan.

As a summer intern with CentraCare, he had the opportunity to rotate through multiple departments in the clinic and hospital setting including imaging, rehabilitation/therapy, the Cancer Center, lab, and pathology. In each area Aidan was assigned a variety of duties and had the opportunity to learn more about the services these team members provide and their role in caring for patients.

Unique Opportunities

"I really enjoyed the time I spent at the Willmar Cancer Center shadowing all the various physicians, nurses, and technicians," Aidan said.

During his time at the Willmar Cancer Center, Aidan was able to experience and learn from many different professionals on the multidisciplinary cancer care team.

He was able to advance his clinical and critical thinking skills while working alongside Elizabeth Griffith, an infusion registered nurse in medical oncology. He also spent time learning from Pharmacist, Beth Kadlec about the intricacies involved with cancer drugs.

Developing Relationships

Throughout his internship, there were a wide range of areas that Aidan learned more about and found that he enjoyed.

"One of my favorite experiences has been forming connections with the staff and patients throughout each of the departments I’ve spent time in this summer," Aidan shared.

"We try to expose the students to as much of our health system as possible during their time with us," said Dana Woelfel, Director, Imaging Services. "The students and our staff are very engaged in the process of sharing and learning. We find that the interns and team members are equally involved and enjoy the process."

Preparing for the Future

After Aidan completes his undergraduate degree at SDSU in the spring of 2025, he plans to continue his educational path to medical school.

"At this point, my end career goal is to become a physician," said Aidan. "It’s hard to say in what area of medicine I’ll end up in, being that there are so many areas to choose from. My (internship) experience has been very helpful. It has been reassuring for myself going into a heavy academic year, an MCAT prep year, knowing that I am choosing a path I am going to enjoy."

With a shortage of health professionals, particularly affecting rural communities, health systems will need to rely on a variety of solutions aimed at educating and recruiting future care team members.

"We’re grateful for the opportunity to receive this grant to participate in the Summer HealthCare Internship Program," said Woelfel. "The more we can introduce and share hands-on learning experiences with students in our rural communities, the better chance we have of leading these students into future health care careers locally."

The Summer Health Care Internship Program offers unique learning, teaching, and collaboration opportunities to train the next generation of healthcare leaders.