Every year, hundreds of trainees troop through the doors of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Among them, students in nursing and allied health come for internships and training placements to put what they’ve been learning in school into practice.
Their studies cross a wide range of health professions, from physiotherapists and nutritionists to medical clerks and electrophysiology technicians. For many of them, the hands-on experience they gain at the Heart Institute sparks their passion and transforms how they see their careers.
Name: Jessica Moore
College/Training Program: Medical Office Administrator Program, Herzing College, Ottawa, Ontario; graduated
Current Position: Diagnostic Imaging Clerk, University of Ottawa Heart Institute
From the first day of her four-week internship as a clerk in Cardiac Imaging, Jessica Moore knew she was where she wanted to be—a place where her work, albeit behind the scenes, was making a difference for patients. Her first day was, she admitted, a bit overwhelming. But there was no question of soldiering on. The fast pace and high-energy levels drew her in.
Jessica grew up in Ottawa, where she had always been aware of the Heart Institute and how it had helped neighbours and friends. During her internship, she got to see the Institute from the inside and the important contributions made by every member of the staff.
“The Heart Institute is such a world-class organization,” she said. “Just being a part of it is an honour.”
Jessica particularly appreciated that her internship let her experience all aspects of the job. She worked at the front desk, interacting with patients, as well as in the back, where she learned just how complex the journey from initial referral to imaging procedure can be. And her experience as an intern stood her in good stead when she was hired to work full time in the same office.
“I had the opportunity to do everything an employee would do,” she said. “The only difference now is that I’m doing it all on my own.”
Name: Adam Dunn
College/Training Program: Bachelor of Science, Nursing, University of Ottawa/Algonquin College; graduated
Current Position: Nurse, University of Ottawa Heart Institute
It took Adam Dunn four years of study to make it to the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (CSICU), but now he knows he’s found his niche.
“I had a great experience,” said the recently graduated nursing student. “I was able to work with some of the best nurses I’ve encountered in my training.”
Adam’s internship in the CSICU wan’t the first exposure he had to nursing at the Heart Institute. He did his Complex Care rotation on the wards here in the fall of 2014. His Consolidation internship—his final placement before he graduating in June 2015—was a month-long period focused on the kind of work students would like to do once they graduate. And for Adam, that was critical care.
During his time in the CSICU, he worked with a preceptor, or mentor, and was able to take on as much responsibility as he was capable of. He particularly appreciated the ability to work directly with patients.
“It’s the first time you start to take on individual responsibility,” he said. “You learn so much about your capabilities as a nurse.”
Adam was struck by the strength of the interdisciplinary team in the CSICU—everyone from doctors and nurses to physiotherapists, dietitians, right through to the cleaning staff—and the mutual respect shown all around.
“I feel very lucky to have been a part of it,” he said.
Name: Aimee Large
College/Training Program: Diagnostic Cardiac Sonography Program, Mohawk College, Hamilton, Ontario; graduated
Current Position: Echocardiogram Technician, University of Ottawa Heart Institute and Queensway Carleton Hospital
Aimee Large ended up where she is mostly by accident—a happy accident it was, too.
The first lucky break came after she completed a Kinesiology degree. As part of an internship at a cardiac rehabilitation facility, she was taken to see the echocardiography equipment. She was hooked. Back at school, she entered the Cardiac Sonography Program at Hamilton’s Mohawk College.
Her second lucky break came, ironically, when she lost the lottery—the internship lottery, that is. She would have liked to have stayed closer to home, but internships are determined by lottery and she didn’t get one in Hamilton. So she came to Ottawa, first with the Queensway Carleton Hospital, and then for a second placement at the Heart Institute.
At the Heart Institute, she learned about delivering echocardiograms to patients and writing the preliminary reports that accompany the test results. She mastered things quickly, with her mentors at times allowing her to take the lead or, with the more complex cases, encouraging her to observe and learn. Because of this mentorship, the Heart Institute, she said, is “a great place to learn.”
The difference between her two internships was in the complexity and severity of the cases at the Heart Institute. “It keeps you at the top of your game,” Aimee said. “If I worked at another kind of hospital, I would not do my career justice. I would not be applying or learning anything new.”
Name: Aleksandra Baykova
College/Training Program: Biomedical and Electrical Engineering Program, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario; graduated
Current Position: Quality Lead at a health care company
Aleksandra Baykova’s internship made textbook learning real, convinced her that biomedical engineering was the field for her and even played a critical role in getting her first job out of school. Between Aleksandra’s third and fourth year of study in biomedical and electrical engineering, she spent four months working with the Heart Institute’s Biomedical Engineering team, seeing the impact of medical equipment on the safety and well-being of actual patients.
“Working at the Heart Institute provided me with a real perspective on how critical the engineer’s job is,” she said.
While at the Heart Institute, Aleksandra worked on medical technology assessment, deployment and installation. She also explored the interface of technology and medicine on the wards and in operating rooms and intervention suites. She benefited from the mentoring she received from the team leader and other members of the department.
“I can only say the best about the dedicated and forward-thinking team I was working with,” she said. “I was so fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with them.”
Aleksandra currently works as a Quality Lead at an international pharmaceutical and medical device company, where she helps monitor and audit the quality of manufactured goods. Thanks to her internship at the Heart Institute, she never loses sight of the patients—the ultimate beneficiaries of these products—and the prime importance of their safety.
“My internship was the best opportunity I’ve been given in my career,” she said.