Nursing student Sarah Miller came to Fort Hays State University with a dream. It started late one night when an infomercial came on for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. From that point on, Miller, a senior from Hill City, knew where she wanted her career to take her.
She got one step closer to her dream when she went to Memphis, Tenn., for a tour of the research hospital. With the help of the Department of Nursing at FHSU and St. Jude's, she turned what started out as a tour into a large step closer to realizing her dream: working at St. Jude.
St. Jude deals exclusively with researching and treating pediatric cancer. If accepted, patients are treated without regard to the parent's ability to pay. Because research and treatment are housed under one roof, St. Jude has made breakthrough discoveries in the treatment of pediatric cancer.
The fight against cancer is nothing new to the Miller family. Her mother was diagnosed in 1997, so working with cancer patients hits very close to home for her and is one of the reasons she wants to turn it into a career.
Combined with her initial interest in being a pediatrician, St. Jude is the perfect combination of her interests.
Miller was able to work with Dr. Lianne Connelly, chair of the Department of Nursing, to create and sign a contract with the hospital to make a course from the internship that counts for credit, although it is not required to graduate. They developed a syllabus, which included journaling her experience, creating a Power Point presentation and performing clinical care under the supervision of a registered nurse at St. Jude.
"Dr. Connelly was very supportive and energetic about getting the internship created," said Miller. "Hopefully, in the future, other students can get the same experience I did."
Miller wasn't alone in Memphis. Her mother and sister went with her and stayed during her internship. It was far from a mundane visit for the Millers. Their van was stolen on their second day in the city.
"You have to take the good with the bad," she said, "and we happened to take the best and the worst."
After the internship, Miller's dream hasn’t changed. She hopes that having had this internship will act as a foot in the door when she graduates in spring of 2010.
"It was a surreal experience. I couldn't believe I was there," said Miller. "It was a dream come true."
"It's very humbling to see these kids so positive and in high spirits, even though they are at their worst in critical care," she said. "There was a 4-year-old patient who wanted to help the nurses with her treatment. It was just inspiring."
All in all, Miller had a wonderful time in Memphis and considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to work at St. Jude. Although they left Memphis without their van, Miller brought back an experience that will last a lifetime.