st summer, I took part in the New York State Career Internship Exploration Program (NYS CEIP) offered by Williamsville East High School.
In this program, students are partnered with a mentor organization to learn more about a career. Participants complete a minimum of 54 hours at the internship site.
I ended up at Buffalo General Medical Center, a Kaleida Health facility. Although it wasn’t my first choice, I decided to stick with it anyway. As it happened, this internship experience became one of the most interesting times of my life.
The first day of internship was a major milestone, much like the first time riding a bike. I reported to the Volunteer Office at 8 a.m. on a Friday, giddy with excitement. Minutes later, I discovered that I would be "working" in the Vascular Interventional Suites (VIS), in the Gates Vascular Institute, for the next two weeks. The shifts I requested were from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday, Thursday, and Friday, to get a taste of a real 9-to-5 job.
My initial impression of the VIS was its striking resemblance to my high school. East has a "no walls" concept, and the internal walls are painted one of four colors: green, blue, red, and orange. Similarly, the VIS is separated into four color-coded regions: purple, green, blue, and orange. Each region has its own nurses’ station or, as the employees liked to call it, its own "pod."
While working in the VIS, I acquired a significant amount of hands-on experience. In fact, if this hospital internship was only about learning and executing a variety of manual tasks, it would have been worthwhile already.
As the weeks progressed, I advanced from small duties – such as folding sheets (which I believe was karma for half-heartedly making my bed at home) and supplying water and menus – to larger tasks – like discharging patients. As the "discharger," I was responsible for wheeling patients out of the hospital, and I also chatted with them while they waited for their ride.
However, the practical aspect of my internship wasn’t of paramount importance; rather, it was the patient interaction. Over the course of two weeks, I met patients of various ethnicities, various backgrounds, and with various paths in life. It was enjoyable to reach out and connect with others outside of my own high school bubble. It was exhilarating to understand the stories each individual had to tell.
Through this internship, I felt an extreme sense of satisfaction from helping others. But more than that, I realized the fragility of human life. Unfortunate events can strike at any time without warning. In the hospital, I was an outsider witnessing people amid their struggles with sickness. I wanted to do as much as I could to alleviate the pain, because in the end, we, as humans, are all vulnerable to illness. It was also then an overwhelming feeling of gratitude rushed over me; I was thankful for being healthy.
After the two weeks at the Gates Vascular Institute were over, I tried thinking of words that could describe the remarkable experience. Only one word sums it up: enlightening.
Although I’m not sure if I want to pursue a career in the medical field, those two weeks greatly influenced the way I thought about the world. I’m now more appreciative of others around me and continuously grateful that my close family, friends, and I are all in good health at present.
I encourage everyone to help out in a hospital – a little assistance can make someone’s struggle with sickness a lot less difficult.
For more information on volunteering for Kaleida Health, go to www.kaleidahealth.org/volunteer/
Sharon Luo is a junior at Williamsville East High School.