MCH internship program broadens reach

  • Monadnock Community Hospital Physician Assistant Lauren Morton speaks to a Zoom classroom full of students from around the region and New England on Monday afternoon. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Monadnock Community Hospital Physician Assistant Lauren Morton speaks to a Zoom classroom full of students from around the region and New England on Monday afternoon. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Kristin Knarr oversees the ELO. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Mondnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/9/2020 5:25:48 PM

A unique extended learning partnership between Monadnock Community Hospital and ConVal High School has created opportunities for students both in the region and all across the country.

For years, Monadnock Community Hospital and ConVal High School have shared a long-term partnership giving students an insider perspective into the medical field. Up until this school year, students with interest in medicine have signed on to observe and participate within a certain department at the hospital, gaining knowledge that can be invaluable when choosing what to pursue in college.

Wylie Kendall, a senior at ConVal, was all set for an internship in pediatrics this fall.

“The medical field always appealed to me,” Kendall said, as he was looking forward to gaining that information first hand. 

But given the restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic and visitors to the hospital extremely limited, a normal internship program would not be possible this school year. Thus began a conversation in the spring between ConVal’s Extended Learning Counselor Kristin Knarr and Michael Greenough, community education/emergency preparedness specialist at MCH, to see how they could continue a collaboration that has benefited so many ConVal students.

Born out of those conversations came the MCH Zoom Classroom that is held on Mondays at 1 p.m. And it’s not just ConVal students that are reaping the benefits of the online platform; Mascenic and Conant students are participating, and it was opened up to schools all across New Hampshire. This Monday, a group from Brunswick, Maine sat in as Physician Assistant Lauren Morton described her profession and background. 

Instead of students picking a particular career focus in the medical field, students are getting a weekly one hour session with various providers and departments through an interactive online classroom.

“We felt that at the very least, it would be a way for students to engage,” Greenough said.

Initially the thought was to have individual students take part, but it became clear this could be a way to bring in more eyes on the medical profession.

“It plays right into our objective at Monadnock, educating our community,” Greenough said.

While it’s no substitute for the hands on approach that the typical internship program offers, it does provide flexibility for those students who have interest in pursuing a career in medicine, but don’t know what path they want to take.

“I’m surprised at the amount of information the students are getting,” Knarr said. “There’s this deeper dive into it. They’re getting things like this is my journey, this is why I chose this profession. Even if it’s not their preferred interest, they’re still getting a lot out of it.”

So far, the students have gotten a look into the operating room, heard about physical and occupational therapy and learned about the emergency room and being a physician’s assistant with professionals in radiology and pediatrics still to present this month. The December schedule is still being worked out.

“It definitely opened up some options,” Kendall said. “Because there’s so many different ways you could go into the medical field.”

For Christy-Sue Solomon, clinical educator and emergency preparedness coordinator at MCH, it is a way to break down the typical stereotypes of the industry.

“There’s such flexibility in all the positions in health care,” Solomon said. “It gives a little bit of insight into what we do.”

The presenters discuss schooling and the path required to enter a specific field and really get into their personal stories. Then it opens up to questions from the students.

“Their questions are phenomenal,” Solomon said. “They’re asking about things like work-life balance, and how that works.”

And the presenters are being honest.

“They do a great job of balancing because it’s not all rainbows,” Solomon said.

“I think having it from their perspective, learning about their experiences and what they find appealing is helpful,” Kendall said. “And in ways, I think this is almost better cause we get to see a lot of different options.”

In years past, Knarr has been able to send a handful of students to MCH each semester, but since the Zoom classroom is strictly held online, it has afforded students from across the state and beyond to join.

Through her participation with the Extended Learning Opportunity network, Knarr heard from colleagues that placement in internships this fall were going to be difficult. So the decision was made to open this first-time program to other high schools and the response has been more than she or Greenough could have ever imagined. More than 20 schools have signed on, with north of 120 students having the ability to log in for the Monday afternoon sessions.

“One of the silver linings with this program is we maybe only had four or five students with the old program and now on our best day, it’s been 125 students,” Greenough said. “Our reach with this program has just been phenomenal and all the credit has to go to the presenters. The thing I’m motivated by the most is the passion they have for their careers has totally come through with their presentations.”

One of those ELO coordinators taking advantage of the opportunity was Dayna Jackson at Conant High School.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Jackson said. “This is an experience we wouldn’t have had if we were in the classroom like normal.”

Jackson said a number of local businesses have opened their doors virtually, but the expanded nature of the MCH internship gave her students another avenue to pursue.

She has a total of 15 students that have taken part, with five students planning to attend each week, including Conant junior Ava Moscaritolo.

Moscaritolo’s mom is a nurse, so when she saw an email from Jackson about “this wonderful program she wanted to try this year,” Moscaritolo thought “maybe I should take a look at it, give it a try.”

“It’s a good opportunity to see what’s out there,” Moscaritolo said.

She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to study in college, so getting a broad look at a number of different medical careers was something she knew was important.

“It’s good to get that kind of information in high school,” she said.

While Moscaritolo wasn’t planning to take part in an internship this fall, her decision to go fully remote freed up some time so she figured why not give it a shot.

Jackson said the pandemic has changed the educational landscape.

“It’s really making people in education revisit how they deliver lessons and make it available,” she said. “If used correctly, it can expand the possibilities.”

The benefit is that students can be anywhere and take part in it, Jackson said.

“It’s an avenue we would not have seen yet, maybe ever,” she said.

And to show how far the reach has gone, just last week, a class from Brunswick, Maine joined the program.

“I didn’t expect this to blow up like it did,” Knarr said. Which for Knarr was a good thing since the internship opportunities for students is obviously limited right now, given the fact that she can have as many as 40 students enrolled for a semester and only has 12 this fall.

“The purpose of the program is finding what a student’s career or college interest is and placing them within that,” Knarr said. “It’s a valuable resource in the community and it’s mutually beneficial all around.”

Greenough said the initial plan was for the fall semester, but given the response, there have been talks of continuing it for the rest of the year.

“We’ve already had a request to repeat a couple of things,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter if the school district is in school or learning remotely. We haven’t talked about a long term plan for this, but I’d like to see us turn this into something that is long lasting.”

And who knows, it may lead to some of those students working at MCH in the future.

“There are shortages all around health care,” Solomon said. “So any light we can shed on the world of health care helps.”

Count Kendall among them who sees the importance of his generation getting into medicine.

“Now more than ever we’re realizing we need more people in the medical field,” he said.

Given the time the world is living through right now, any opportunities can make a huge difference.

“We’re really proud that Monadnock Community Hospital in little Peterborough, New Hampshire can make a mark statewide with kids interested in the health care  field,” Greenough said.


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