Internship stretches student outside her comfort zone

The surgery suite in the cardiac center where Aviles interned. During her internship, she was able to observe a heart surgery.

Anderson University senior Emily Aviles has known she wanted to pursue occupational therapy as a career from the beginning, so when it came time to find an internship, she knew where to start the search. After some research, she found an internship program at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the cardiac rehab center.

Aviles, from Cedarville, Ohio, is an exercise science major and a psychology minor and a member of the Center for Public Service. As a part of her AU experience, she is a coach for Special Olympics and volunteers with the Christian Center and Differently Abled campus ministry.

The internship allowed Aviles to experience things that she had learned about in class and build relationships with the children who were at the cardiac center. As a part of the internship, Aviles and the other interns were responsible for helping administer VO2 Max tests, which monitor the heart’s response to physical activity. She also assisted with health camps the hospital hosted. During the final week of her internship, she was able to watch a heart surgery.

Her experience with AU campus ministries helped prepare her for one specific instance during her internship. When a patient who had a mental disability came to do the VO2 Max test, Aviles was able to relate to the patient well. “As soon as I got to talking with her, I felt like I was back [at AU] working with my friends in Differently Abled or my athletes in Special Olympics, so I had an immediate connection,” said Aviles.

Due to this connection, Aviles was able to assist the patient during the test. “I was able to go out into the hallway and stand to the side and encourage her,” said Aviles. “It brought me back to here. It was an amazing experience.”

Even though Aviles does not plan to pursue a career in the cardiac-care field, she learned a lot about patient relationships. “It’s cool to see how these people in the hospitals are making these relationships and encouraging these kids, because you will have congenital conditions come through, so that means you’re gonna see them continually,” added Aviles. “They’re investing in their lives.”

Dr. Doug Seelbach serves as Aviles’ academic advisor and professor of exercise science. He explains the importance of such in-depth internships. “Emily was able to see many of the things she had learned in classes applied in a real-life setting, which gave her a much greater understanding of her educational experience.”

"Not only was I learning new things, but I was able to test myself to see how well I retained the knowledge that I had from previous classes,” said Aviles. ”Experiencing what these kids are going through in the hospital and watching the heart surgery was something that I’m not doing to see every day as an occupational therapist.”

The internship has set Aviles up for success in her future career and has improved her classroom experiences.

Dr. Jim Scott, AU professor of kinesiology and natatorium director, is Aviles’ on-campus advisor for the Center for Public Service. “It also helped her going into this academic year both in class as a student and as a lab assistant as she tutors underclassmen,” said Scott. “It is always good to see how what you have learned actually applies to the workplace.”

As Aviles finishes her senior year at AU, she plans to attend graduate school to continue her studies and pursue a career in occupational therapy.

Christina Nesslage is a junior from Hiawatha, Iowa, majoring in public relations with a complementary major in Christian ministries. Nesslage is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of Anderson University Office of Communication and Marketing.

Anderson University is a private Christian university in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World ReportColleges of Distinction, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), Anderson University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business and theology.

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