Tsz-Kiu Chui is not much on sweet tea, but she does find the hospital’s meatloaf tasty.
Chui is from Hong Kong, and she’s at Johnston Health in Smithfield for a month as a dietetic intern. It’s part of a program through Meredith College, which will prepare her for the R.D. exam and, ultimately, a career as a registered dietician.
“I’ve enjoyed working in a community hospital,” says Chui, who is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Champagne. “I’ve been able to interact and spend more time with patients than I would have at a larger urban medical center.”
The hospital has hosted dietetic internships for as long as Kathy Rikard, a dietician, can remember. There were interns when she came to work in 1992 for Aramark, the company with whom the hospital has long held a contract for food services. Since then, she has been the internship coordinator for the food services department, which has grown from one dietician to five.
Today, demand for dietetic internships across the country is so high that Rikard schedules students for slots a year out. A student starting this month had been waiting 10 years for an internship, she said.
While the interns gain experience, Rikard says her department gleans new ideas and insight. “They keep us abreast of new information and new ways of documenting,” she said. “They’re a resource.”
They’re also an extra hand. Rikard says interns do presentations to diabetic and cancer support groups and in-service training for food-service employees. And they’ve put together teaching materials for outpatient diabetes classes. One of the interns improved a tube-feeding process for patients.
It’s been an interesting month for the three interns from East Carolina University.
Ryan Killane of Clayton and Jacob Lewis of Kenly have shadowed vice presidents and taken part in process-improvement events. And Anaira Knight, who lives in the Cleveland community, has written blogs for the website and assisted with CPR training during Heart Month.
“I’ve been able to see the things I’ve learned in class,” said Killane, who has worked part-time at HealthQuest since 2006. “It’s interesting to see how the departments interconnect.”
Although he’s caught himself yawning in some of the meetings he’s attended, Killane says the material is anything but boring. “There’s never a dull moment here,” he said. “There’s something different going on every day.”
Johnston Health chief executive Chuck Elliott has asked Killane to write a grant application for a community paramedicine program. Such a program is now underway at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.
Lewis is interning with Amber Daughtry, the patient experience specialist. He’s been attending patient experience huddles and compiling patient-satisfaction data to support new initiatives.
Knight is interning in the marketing department, where she’s writing for the website and assisting with marketing events. “I’ve enjoyed doing a variety of things,” she said.
Ashley Drotzur, the recruiter for the human resources department, says the hospital hosts about 10 interns a year. Once a director has accepted an intern, she says, the student must go through a clearance process that includes undergoing a background check and signing a confidentiality agreement. Like employees, they’re required to follow the code of conduct, which includes adhering to the dress code policy.
An administrative director
During her 34 years at Lenoir Memorial Hospital in Kinston, Elaine Penuel of Grifton has worked her way up from staff nurse to administrative director of inpatient nursing. Although she’s approaching an age when she could retire, she’s pursuing a lifelong personal goal to earn her master’s degree.
At the hospital, Penuel is doing her capstone practicum – the final piece she needs in order to graduate in May.
From the spiritual-care library on third floor, she’s laying the groundwork for an advisory council that will include patients and families. Johnston Health is part of the North Carolina and Virginia Hospital Engagement Network, called NoCVA for short, and patient-family engagement is one of the thrusts of the rural collaborative.
On a recent Thursday, Penuel convened a kickoff meeting to roll out a charter and to explain the council’s objectives.
“The goal is to provide patient-and-family-centered care,” she said. “While it’s not a new concept, the advisory council is a new way of enhancing it.”