The End of the Beginning: First Co-op Reflections

On June 30th, I said a sad goodbye to my first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Cardiology Clinic. I will miss the amazing team there, not to mention the kids who truly made it all worthwhile. I have taken away so much from this co-op, but here are the main things that I have learned that are truly applicable to any co-op in any field.

1.       I have developed my communication skills. The clinic is truly a team environment that depends on information sharing and full communication when something goes wrong. Many patients see multiple providers in one day, and many see other departments within the hospital as well. In my role, I have to be able to effectively communicate any concerns or questions as soon as possible, since I am usually the first person to see the patient. Over these six months I have grown comfortable speaking with all providers up to and including physicians about patients and their needs. The importance of this was proven to me when I noticed a baby was losing oxygen in his blood to 60% and below in my care. If I hadn’t said anything to the nurse, that patient could have been in a dangerous situation. But because I escalated my concern, the baby got better care and was eventually admitted. At the beginning of co-op, I would have been nervous to approach the nurse, especially in our busier times. But now I am confident enough to approach the team about various issues. In the workplace, if you see something, say something: it will benefit the team and show your knowledge.

2.       My time management has also improved. I know which providers take longer in appointments and who likes to have their patients ready quickly. As a result, I am able to quickly make decisions about who to put in rooms vs. who to leave in the waiting area, or which patient I should get vital signs on first. I know this skill is even more valuable on an inpatient unit, so I am glad to have gained it early on. Understanding the “flow” of tasks given to you and successfully completing them on time is crucial. It also means you might have extra time to understand what you are doing as opposed to rushing through tasks so quickly that you don’t gain any knowledge.

3.       I have learned so much about the decision making skills a nurse needs. They need to be able to synthesize information from so many different sources and present their findings to other providers in an accessible way. Since I have not been on clinical yet, I have less experience with gathering information pertinent to nursing, like a patient history. I know that much of this knowledge will come from clinical and my classwork, but some will also come from observing the nurses on the job. I feel more empowered to ask them questions about how they arrived at a certain conclusion now that I am farther along in my nursing education.

4.       I have also gained knowledge about the importance of nursing research. At BCH almost all of the nurses are involved in research projects run by either the hospital or individual clinicians. I find this work fascinating and I am hoping to get involved myself when I become a nurse. To improve my skills in this area I will be looking for more opportunities through Bouve to get involved in projects.

I will truly miss this co-op and I can’t believe it went by so fast! Your first co-op is so important to your overall learning experience: make sure to listen, take it all in, and make a name for yourself! It’s never too early to make a great impression.

Julia Thompson is a third year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and just completed her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at thompson.jul@husky.neu.edu with any questions. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

Bucket List for the Summer

The life of a student revolves around semesters of deadlines, classes, credits and prepping for exams. Almost as fast as it began it ends and spring finally arrives! Temperatures begin to rise with flowers appearing. That’s right, summer is here! There is no better time for students to just take some time off to sit back and ponder: goals vs classes, dreams vs ground-realities and plans vs the deviation from plans.

The summer break is vastly underrated because many consider it to be yet another long undeserved vacation showered upon students. More often than not, people don’t realize that students tend to get dragged into a monotonous chain of events that tends to dry out their sense of creativity, instincts and spark! The summer recess is a pertinent opportunity for them to explore areas that are of their interest which may or may not align with their curricular requirements. These areas of interest can not only be tapped but also nurtured to realize and accomplish long-term personal and career objectives.

In order to make the most of the summer, here are some of the areas that students can work on to understand, learn and enhance their personalities.

1. Travel to unravel: take that much needed vacation that you’ve been wanting to go to since the start of the semester. From beaches and boats to mountains and bike trails, whatever it is that gives you the freedom to experience the sights and sounds of a new destination, go for it! There is no better way of not just learning about new cultures but also about yourself, than to travel. From going solo to joining a tour, the experiences of meeting new people and making new friends has a profound impact on perceiving the environment around you. This can guide you to take informed decisions and insightful evaluations about the courses you want take or even the profession you want to choose going forward.
2. Create or clean up your social media presence: the gamut of social media platforms around us makes it mandatory for one and all to create a sense of a ‘larger than life’ perception of who we are. This is great, but only to a certain extent! Many-a-time, we end up posting, tagging, liking, commenting, sharing and tweeting about issues that may have polarizing opinions. Such factors though seem minor, tend to snowball into major roadblocks in the larger scheme of things. From applying to colleges to applying to jobs, your social media presence is scanned and combed out by admissions officials and HR managers. Your personality is evaluated on the basis of your virtual footprints. So, use the summer as a golden opportunity to either create your LinkedIn profile and increase your professional network or clean up by clearing out those random posts on social media. Remember, if there is even a second guess or thought about it. Take it down!
3. Strum that guitar: nothing soothes the mind and body like music. There’s a little bit of a musician in all of us. So why not give yourself the opportunity to explore your musical side. By nurturing a hobby like music, students expand their skill set beyond the usual suspects of being proficient at software tools or sports. Music adds a multi-dimensional facet to the student’s personality. Also, music has a universal appeal, so you could be foreign to a place but your music won’t!
4. Work on back-end tasks: this is a rather vast and vague area of things. It’s basically clearing out everything that you’ve had on your to-do list for the longest of time. Items on this list were sent here because of your procrastination and your sheer commitment to other more important tasks. But, this your time to clean up everything that you’ve been sweeping off under the carpet. From cleaning your room to researching about that college you’ve been aspiring to go to. It could even be taking that gym class you’ve been postponing or helping your folks by contributing to home-related work. Your future self will thank you!
5. Get a job: intern, volunteer or even join the family business. There is no better way to spend the summer than by taking up a job. It may be a small part-time job or even a credit based 40 hours a week co-op at a big multi-national. The learning and experience that students gather in the industry environment is unequaled. This contributes significantly when you’re building your resume. When you have work experience to go along with your high school degree, you stand a greater chance of getting into that college or organization of your choice. This gives students an exposure of the industry environment and gives them an opportunity to connect classroom knowledge with real work experiences.

There’s so much that students can do in such a short yet significant span of time. Summer brings with it a break from the routine and gives students the independence to work on those things that will give them satisfaction, both academically and personally. So which of these are you planning on doing this summer? It’s not too late to start now!

BEHIND THE BULLET POINTS: The Hidden Career Advantages of Global Co-op

We’ve all come to love that Northeastern is synonymous with all things global and experiential!  Dialogues of Civilization, Study Abroad, the hallmark Global Co-op program, a large international student body, and many other avenues to name a few, are ways in which our students gain critical exposure to an array of foreign cultures.

Alane De Luca, Peace Corps Volunteer, photographed with two Senegalese friends

To be a university student in America offers a certain right of passage – to ‘find’ oneself – to be able to explore courses of interest, entertain various career options, and take advantage of the many co-curricular options often promoted on campuses across the country.  Now is the time to seize this luxury opportunity – to indulge oneself – to imagine the possible and realize the impossible!  The convergence of this moment offers students multiple of directions from which to chose their path – my advice – be open to the new and different.  I did just that when I joined the Peace Corps, and it was one of the most transformational experiences of my life.

Much discussion about the benefits of Global Co-op revolves around the unique work experiences students can expect and the interesting companies and organizations co-ops are offered.  What many students miss at first glance, is that a Global Co-op also offers invaluable learning opportunities and cultural exposure way beyond the 9 to 5.  It’s the day-to-day living in a foreign culture that cannot be assigned a price tag – the complete immersion into how business is conducted in another country, soaking up the language, and easily overlooked nuances of communication among people. These are the exact bullet points that are difficult to add to your CV, but that are so critical to self-realization. They might be hard to articulate, but so powerful once experienced.

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, here with newly married couple in Indonesia

Here, for example, after a day of meetings, I was spontaneously invited to attend a weekend wedding (not your usual turn of events given that I did not know the family), and what an incredible chance to seize a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would be forever imprinted in my mind.  How incredible it would be for a student to have a similar experience – no, this activity is not necessarily resume-worthy, but as a Global Co-op and to absorb and reflect upon these types of cross-cultural interactions, is what will give you the ‘career advantage’ over your competition and indelible passion for diversity in years to come.

I am often struck by the smells of foreign lands.  Burning wood in Bali, simmering curry and saffron in India, barbecue steak in Argentina.  Who would think that something so powerful as the sense of smell would be part of a career blog?

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, here talking to children in central India

 Exactly.  No one.  To my point, when a Global Co-op ventures to their work site across the globe, part of the journey is to relish in the new and different.  Global Co-ops are laser-focused on developing new skills and adapting to their new employer as they should (mapping out resume-worthy bullet points the key goal), however, it would be short-sighted to overlook the permeable grittiness of day-to-day life in a new environment.  Something as innocuous as smell can lend to deeper learning – an up-close-and-personal diary of sorts about society the economic advantages and challenges, the geo-political climate, and the societal norms, to name a few.  When I was in India, for example, I was metaphorically slapped in the face with economical inequities – one that brought me right back to my Peace Corps days.  Knowing now what I didn’t know then made me realize that I could not have put a price on how an experience from 25 years ago would prepare me for feeling so at home in a place surrounded by such rich and contrasting realities.

Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound.  Travel is an education – unbound by walls with endless horizons to take in.  My hope is that this blog will inspire one student (if not hundreds or even thousands) to take a chance on a Global Co-op.  A Global Co-op experience will put you on the front lines of the impossible, where strength is challenged and growth is inevitable.  Impressive CV’s are a common commodity in today’s economy – what will make you different?  How will you stand out?  What will be your story – one that can be told as if you are painting a picture – what impression will you leave your next employer, and employer after that, and so on and so on…?

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, watches as boy and his mother buy ice cream on a busy street in Hong Kong

In closing, I will leave you with this – I was struck by seeing this simple ice cream truck on the side of a busy road in Hong Kong.  The little boy and his mother were rushing and hailing their hands to make the truck stop for them (just like we would do here).  What struck me is that I would not necessarily notice this seemingly traditional pastime of buying ice cream from an ice cream truck in my own neighborhood – but, given I was in a new culture with senses heightened, to me, observing a mother and child buying something as simple as ice cream seemed so poignant in a foreign land.  Definitely not a bullet point for the resume, but oh how cool it was to witness on that hot summer day….

Alane De Luca oversees the Global Employer Relations team and global lead-generation initiatives within Career Development and Cooperative Education.  She comes to Northeastern with 25+ years of experience working in the international education arena.  Alane’s passion for global experiential learning began when she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, where she worked alongside NGO’s and native Senegalese in rural parts of northern Senegal.  Upon returning to the states, she assumed a position funded by the United States Agency for International Development focusing on initiatives set forth by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and administered at Northeastern.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations, Northeastern University

She also has experience directing global and experiential learning programs within academia at Merrimack College, Salem State University, Suffolk University Law School, and Saint Anselm College.  She is a dual citizen of Italy, holds an M.Ed. from Northeastern University and a B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross. www.linkedin.com/in/alanedeluca

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien