For her internship project, Kelsey Porter thought she had created a valuable resource, a best-practices guide for staff. But when she realized it was not accessible enough for her co-workers to make the best use of, she knew she had to rethink how it reached her intended audience.
Major: Biology with Public Health concentration
Career path: Physician Assistant
Becoming a PA felt like this really wonderful balance of acquiring a ton of knowledge while also being a high-level healthcare provider. I care deeply about contributing to my community in tangible, meaningful ways.
I love that as a PA, I could potentially work in multiple specialties over the course of my career in order to help meet the needs of my community.
Healthcare professionals often have a deep and lasting impact on the communities that they serve, and I would be honored to contribute to my local community in such a purposeful way.
Finding her focus
To come up with a focus for my internship, I started by identifying a growth area that would improve life for the residents. I asked questions like, “What are some hard parts of the job at ACR?” and “What are challenges residents are facing?” I found a resident who was pretty uncomfortable due to behavioral challenges and falls. That led to my decision to develop a staff resource to improve the quality of care we provide for individuals with Parkinson’s disease dementia, and implement a plan.
The plan around Parkinson’s dementia focused on four areas — communication, behaviors, movement and activities. I then researched best practices in dementia care to identify how we could better support our residents in each of the four areas. After my research, I compiled the information I had gathered into a best-practices guide for staff.
My co-workers were so positive and open to my project, but shifts are busy and it wasn’t able to be accessed in the way I had originally intended. But instead of giving up, I decided to revisit my project design and see how I could improve it.
I knew the lack of engagement wasn’t a reflection of how my coworkers felt about my investment in my project — they clearly all supported me, and hoped that my internship would be successful. However, with busy shifts and limited time and energy, I had to meet my co-workers where we were at.
I realized I had to make my dementia best practices guide more engaging and accessible for the busy staff. We changed the format from a detailed best-practices guide into a “Dementia tip of the day.” The staff found most of the tips to be quite helpful. They especially appreciated behavior-focused tips, likely because managing behaviors is one of the most emotionally challenging parts of dementia care.
I was happy with how I responded to the challenge. I think that this experience was a good reminder of how difficult it is to get others to invest in something, particularly when you’re asking them to put time and energy into it.
Throughout my project, I appreciated the chance to explore how we can better support our residents. Dementia care is challenging, and I think it is important to continuously seek to improve our quality of care. Providing additional resources and training for staff is a great way to increase the tools that we have available when we are working with residents daily.
Advice for future interns
Try and focus on a problem or growth area that will be impactful to residents. And pair it with something you’ll be excited enough to work on for a number of months. Be patient with the process. It can be messy, and you might have to redo things and change your plans along the way. It is what you make it. If you have four hours a week to devote to your project, the internship team will be there to support you. You can really shape it to your schedule.
Considering doing an Arthur’s and ACR Internship? Check out other featured internship spotlights here. To get started and join Kelsey in making a difference for her residents, email firstname.lastname@example.org.