This summer Rubi Duran ’16 had a Nikuradse-Matthews Fellowship through Bowdoin’s funded internship program to work with hospitalized children in Tucson, Ariz.. She volunteered with Project Sunshine, a nonprofit that helps improve the lives of thousands of children and families living with medical challenges. The program extends across 150 cities in the United States and is active in five international satellite sites: Canada, China, Israel, Kenya and Puerto Rico.
Duran, who says she wants to go to medical school after graduating from Bowdoin, earlier in the summer answered questions about her internship via email.
Bowdoin Daily Sun: What are you doing in your internship?
Rubi Duran: As a Project Sunshine volunteer, I tutor children and engage them in activities, such as arts and crafts. The focus of the crafts is to enable children to communicate emotions, fears and concerns non-verbally. As a tutor, the program pairs me up with a hospitalized child to help them catch up on missed schoolwork. In addition, I assist in other child-oriented activities, including celebrating birthdays, cooking nutritious foods and reading aloud. At times I also work as an assistant to the child-life specialist and nurses by staying with a young child whose parents had to leave for a while. I have been getting the full experience of being part of Project Sunshine and being a hospital volunteer. As a long-term project I hope to possibly start a new chapter of Project Sunshine through Bowdoin when I return in the fall.
BDS: What attracted you to this opportunity?
RD: I know firsthand what it is to see a loved one in a medically impaired position, and thought I could offer these families a truly understanding form of assistance.
BDS: Can you describe your work environment and the people you work with (such as their specialties and the kind of work they do)?
RD: I work with a group of amazing child-life specialists at the Diamond Children’s Center within the University Medical Center. They are a team of five women who work with the children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. They are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome the challenges of hospitalization. They all have a strong background in child development and family systems. Child-life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities. They are beyond patient and were extremely welcoming of me as an intern. As I see them work countless hours, sometimes even overtime, it is clear it takes plenty of dedication and hard work to do what they do. The Diamond Children’s hospital as a whole is an amazing place that is focused on the children’s needs without losing sight of the family. It is a friendly hospital that strives to be a place of life — it is filled with fish tanks, colorful murals, drawings and other fun things that give off a good vibe to those who are going through hard times.
BDS: What’s been the best part so far?
RD: Working one-on-one with patients and their siblings has been beyond rewarding. I did not know how great of an impact this type of programming has on those it helps. Walking into a room with a sick child and having the joy of walking out with them having a smile on their face or getting their siblings to get their mind off of things has been the best part.
BDS: What have you gained from your time with the organization so far?
RD: I have gained patience and awareness. I work with children, mostly between the ages of seven and 12. They are at times quiet and shy and at other times loud and outgoing, but both require the same amount of patience. From building a house out of craft sticks with a child to doing various activities with a group of kids, I now know how to handle these situations. I do not know if I am improving much in arts and crafts, but definitely in the art of patience. Also, I am more aware of not only what it is like to work at a hospital, but also of the overwhelming number of people in need. The workers here are fast. They never stop working, and no matter how small the job seems it is a vital part to keeping things in order. The receptionist at the nurse station constantly answers phone calls and questions, the janitors quickly clean up the rooms for the next patient, the nurses run to every beep on their phone, and doctors are making life-saving decisions. It is intense and requires everyone to handle the pressure. As for the people in need, it surprises me how many patients go in and out. Some are here for weeks, even months, while others go in and out on the same day, but it doesn’t stop and truly emphasizes the need for us to continuously call attention upon healthcare and the need to keep on finding ways to improve.
BDS: What are your personal and professional goals for the summer?
RD: This summer I personally want to relax, just live for today, but be prepared for tomorrow. I had a tough first year of college due to an unexpected family crisis. While I was away I did not really get the chance to take everything in because I was focused on school and now I simply need the time to think. All I want is to enjoy the schedule of going to my internship, getting home to my family, and soaking in some Arizona sun on an afternoon swim. Professionally this summer I want to use this internship not only to improve and learn new skills, but as a form of networking. I am at a hospital that is recognized across the country in various fields and want to take advantage of getting to know the professionals who surround me. It is difficult to have a conversation with people who are tremendously busy, but whenever I get the chance I introduce myself, and throughout the weeks I hope to be remembered at least by a few.
BDS: How does this experience fit into your future aspirations?
RD: I plan to pursue medical school to become a physician. I believe this internship will teach me more about what pursuing a medical career path entails. I have been involved in the much needed fundamentals of patience, communication and teamwork, which make up the core of a doctor’s daily duties. Where better to be than a hospital for someone who has future aspirations of becoming a doctor? I obviously am not performing medical procedures, but I am doing what most people do; I am starting from the bottom by establishing a strong foundation in patient communication and understanding.