This year, I am interning at Blue Mountain Heart to Heart here in Walla Walla, WA. Heart to Heart seeks to promote public health and increase wellness among the community through advocacy, education, harm reduction and support for individuals across a spectrum of chronic conditions. I have been working as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for the past three years, however I have mostly worked in hospital settings. This internship has allowed me the privileged of working in a community based public health organization.
I have been able to get involved in multiple of Heart to Hearts projects and programs. A large part of my job is assisting with patient intake for our Meds First Program here in Walla Walla. This program includes both medication and case management to clients seeking to start and manage recovery after opioid dependence. Additionally, I work the syringe exchange in both Walla Walla and Pasco. The syringe exchange allows community members to bring us dirty needles and we exchange them for clean ones, on a one to one basis, as well as provide any supplies they need such as clean water, band aids, alcohol pads and more. A large part of the syringe exchange is asking our clients if they would like a Naloxone kit. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a drug used to stop the effects of opioids, specifically in the event of an overdose. Heart to Heart gives away Naloxone kits for free to community members as well as provides training on how to administer the dose. These harm reduction practices employed by this organization function to make community members feel supported and safe in a judgement free environment. Next semester I hope to expand Heart to Heart’s Naloxone program to Whitman’s own campus. I would like to see Naloxone kits in each of the residence halls as well as have a larger understanding of how we can improve access to support and additional resources for individuals struggling with substance abuse on campus.
I have worked in various clinical entities, however I have found a sense of compassion and dedication at this organization that I have not experienced before in other medical settings. This internship has given me the opportunity to gain critical experience working in a clinical setting while learning about a prominent area of Public Health that will prove to be critical in my future professional endeavors since I plan to attend graduate school after Whitman to become a Nurse Practitioner with a concentration in Public Health. Through this internship I have reaffirmed that my interests lie in health care, but my passion lies in helping people. Moving forward I hope to continue working for community based public health organizations like Heart to Heart.
Experiences like Becca’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez