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Student Spotlights

Elisabeth: MedLab

Elisabeth Birch spent her internship working at the Mayo Clinic. She was given a lot of responsibility and gained a lot of practical skills that will help in her future career.

What is your internship experience?

So far, I’ve completed my phlebotomy and microbiology rotations at the Mayo Clinic and will be starting my chemistry rotation prior to the end of the term.

In phlebotomy, I had the opportunity to draw blood from various patients in the outpatient clinic, which included verifying identification, and appropriately drawing blood in tubes in the correct order. I also assisted in processing in the core lab, where I helped organize specimens from all over the hospital and prepare them for various departments to run tests on. In micro, I streaked samples to plates, prepared and read Gram and fungal stains, worked in the mycology and AFB lab, and helped identify organisms from every source in the lab, including setting up and running molecular diagnostics, antibiotic susceptibility panels, performing bench spot tests, and other necessary laboratory tests for clinical microbiology. I also learned the criteria for when to consider an organism and when to consider it a pathogen.

What did you learn during this experience?

The practical application and hands-on experience of working in a laboratory; through working with real patient samples, I was able to experience the reality of laboratory work and the urgency with which diagnostics are performed. It was incredible to watch professionals interacting with other healthcare workers in order to provide the best care for the patients at our facility.

I learned how to use current analyzers and professional equipment that the lab on campus didn’t have due to restrictions on resources--the Mayo Clinic values research and innovation, so there were instruments designed to improve quality and accuracy in the lab that I had only ever seen in pictures and videos. It was an incredible experience.

What courses prepared you to be successful as an intern?

I had a lot of lab courses that gave me experience with running laboratory spot tests and identifying organisms; although the setting was different, many of those practical skills helped me prove myself and represent BYU well. Drawing blood during my lab classes also prepared me for when I was drawing from patients who had varying attitudes regarding getting their blood drawn.
Intention: because my internship has direct bearing on my future career path, I have been very intentional about my actions and my attitude. I have chosen to take initiative and learn everything I can, to prove myself and to myself that I am competent and that this is a field that I can succeed in. I have received praise from those working with me regarding how willing I am to jump in and begin to lead on the tasks that must be completed, and I believe that using my experiences now to become confident in my ability to work independently has been a huge blessing.

How did your professional competencies increase during this experience?

Integration: my internship has me completely integrated into lab culture; I see my education coordinator once a week for my proctored exam, and outside of that time, I am completely integrated into the laboratory setting. Because of the nature of the profession, I am never left completely alone, but often lead in testing and performing tasks so that I can learn to the fullest.
Reflection: specifically, identifying organisms and reading plates has helped me reflect on my education thus far and how helpful my studies were in preparing me for this internship and occupation. I have also found opportunity to reflect on my future career path and consider what I can contribute to a laboratory.

Would you recommend this internship?

100% yes!!! Laboratory work is so dependent on hands-on experience, and getting the full, 40-hour week experience interacting with patient samples and professional scientists has been immeasurably valuable to me both as a student and a scientist.