by Elise Miller, staff writer
MAY 2022 — Abigail Stiller, a nursing intern at Summa Health in Akron, is also a high school senior at Bio-Med Science Academy. Like many seniors, Stiller has an internship project that occupies half of her school day. During their junior year, students at Bio-Med are required to pursue either an internship, research project, or independent study by the end of the year. With her desire to work in the field of nursing and women’s health, Stiller secured her internship in January of her junior year. It all began with her connection to a family friend.
When considering internship opportunities, she decided to reach out to her former Sunday school teacher, Connie Becht. Since Becht was an obstetrician, a field Stiller was interested in, she contacted her without hesitation.
Becht didn’t have much hesitation either when accepting her as her intern. ”I was excited,” said Becht, “I love precepting and my masters is in nursing education so I love teaching.”
As her former Sunday school teacher, Becht was also excited to see Stiller grow in a new way. She explained, “I got the privilege to watch her grow as a child and now it’s fun to see her mature into her adulthood and into her profession.”
Stiller is Becht’s first official intern, but as a floor nurse teaching nurse education Becht had many students who were college level in age. Though Stiller was the youngest, Becht recalled how “I often forgot that she was still in high school.”
Obstetricians specialize in caring for women and their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Stiller sometimes works on the obstetrician floors at her internship.
“I have days where I’m going to be on the floor and days when I’m not,” she explained. Depending on this, her days can vary greatly in activities.
Most days not on the floor for Stiller begin once her classes at Bio-Med end during her open cores. “I get out [of Bio-Med] around 11:30 a.m., so I’m there around 11:45 a.m.”
Stiller explained that her tasks on these days range from data collection and analysis to working on spreadsheets. However, Stiller’s afternoons primarily consist of meetings.
Her days on the floor, on the other hand, can sometimes start as early as 4:30 a.m. In the delivery room, Stiller explained that “I’m what we call a helping hand.”
As a helping hand, she was taught how to take vitals of newborn babies, read contraction and fetal heart rate patterns, start IV bags, and many other procedures.
These days have also proven to be very long for Stiller. She explained that “There are some days I’ve pulled 16-hour days — some I’ve pulled 12 hours.” This is made possible when Bio-Med has “orange days,” which is when Stiller has no classes.
On these days, Stiller acknowledged that “I have worked a night shift.” Since she is 17, this shift could possibly conflict with child labor laws in any other context. These shifts are not typical for most Bio-Med internships. However, the longer shifts were made possible by the volunteer service program she got her internship through.
The program leaves how many hours a student works up to them and requires them to sign a form removing their liability. “I do this to myself partly,” said Stiller.
She recalled one day when she worked a night shift that made for an almost 48-hour long day. “Unlike the other nurses who can sleep beforehand, I had school the entire day beforehand,” Stiller said.
She also had to do a house cleaning side job. She recalled how she slept in the back of her car before driving home that day.
Despite the long shifts and intensities that come with the position, Stiller enjoys it nonetheless. “It’s a magical sight when a baby is born,” she explained.
Becht noted that Stiller “does anything that is asked and never complains. Always has a smile on her face.”
She also loves the staff and community at her internship, solidifying her desire to pursue nursing as a career. “My plan is to do an undergrad in nursing, [and] get my bachelors in [registered nursing]. Then, I can go into medical school if I desire to become an [obstetrician],” she explained.
Working in this field has already left her with a multitude of stories, some of which she cannot share due to HIPAA laws.
“We had a case a couple months ago with a patient who had third-degree burns all over her body,” she began. The mother was 23 weeks pregnant, and without a burn unit, Stiller and others had to coordinate with a hospital that had one.
After having to go back and forth talking to doctors one-on-one, Stiller realized that “there’s a lot of problem solving I did not think would come with this job.”
A more peculiar thing Stiller learned at her internship was that there are robot babies that cost $50,000, and her internship has one.
“We just got a new baby that’s a robot that is programmable,” said Stiller. At her internship, simulations are run with the baby to further nurse education on skills days.
Other simulations run on skills days include fire in the OR, where nurses run through a simulation of what it’s like if a fire were to break out in the operating room. These simulations help better prepare nurses for the real thing.
Aside from the educational lessons Stiller has learned in her field of study, she gathered that “you learn how to interpret people on a different level,” teaching her lessons in perception as well.
After Stiller’s time at her internship, she also gathered that she has thoroughly enjoyed her time there, as Becht expressed that “she is a joy to have.”