Kaelan Woodall’s experience watching her mother battle breast cancer sparked her interest in nursing—but a summer externship at the Mayo Clinic set her dream on fire.
Woodall, a Georgia Health Sciences University nursing student, was one of 111 students nationwide selected to participate in the Mayo Clinic Summer IIII Nursing Externship program in Rochester, Minn. this past June and the first GHSU student chosen to participate since 2009. She was also the only participant from Georgia.
The highly competitive program, in its 46th year, is a 10-week paid externship that challenges rising junior nursing students to expand their knowledge of nursing and critical thinking skills.
Students work alongside clinical coaches to gain experiences in inpatient settings, including post-anesthesia care and operating rooms. The coaches, all licensed nurses, perform the actual procedures but involve the students as much as possible.
Woodall, an Elberton, Ga. native, was encouraged by her mother and uncle, an Elberton, Ga. internist and GHSU alumnus, Dr. R. David Mize, to apply for the externship. She jumped at the chance.
“I knew that the internship program is the best opportunity I could ever get as a nurse,” says Woodall, GHSU nursing senior and class President. “I really wanted to get to see all areas of nursing—the good, the bad, the ugly and get the best possible academic and clinical experience I could. It was absolutely amazing.”
Woodall was pleased with the externship model, which enabled nursing students to participate in the entire patient experience from a multidisciplinary perspective, while still encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
Externs were allowed to participate in 16 hours of observational experience throughout the clinic and educational classes on any advanced topics open to Mayo’s nursing staff. Extracurricular experiences were also available.
“I got to see everything that is involved in patient care, family dynamics, the broader spectrum of what goes on in health care, from what doctors do, what the physical therapists do, what nurse practitioners do,” says Woodall.
Nursing Program Director Rebecca Rule acknowledges Kaelan’s commitment and the College of Nursing’s commitment to preparing students for opportunities after graduation.
“I’m extremely proud of all of our students on both campuses. These are the best of the best,” says Rule.
“They’ve worked long and hard to get here, so we like to work side-by-side with them to facilitate their learning and make sure they get out there and they’re wonderfully safe practitioners.”
GHSU nursing students have been selected to participate in several competitive externships, including those at the Mayo Clinic and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, as well as being recognized as Northside Scholars. Woodall hopes her experience inspires students to pursue competitive externships.
“I really want to tell [students] that, -‘yes,’- it’s possible,” says Woodall. “I really want to encourage other people to do it.”
While Woodall plans a career as an emergency room nurse, the externship has given her a greater appreciation for the opportunity to interact more personally with patients.
Rule believes Woodall’s empathy is a great strength that will serve her well professionally.
“She’s very inclusive of people in general. I think she can see when [someone] might be struggling with something and is always quick to offer assistance, offer a helping hand. I have no doubt that she’ll be a wonderfully successful nurse,” says Rule.
“I see her making her mark, in some way, shape or form. It’s not the last we’ve heard of her. At all.”