Career Connections

Brenna Christensen

Major: Kinesiology and Health

Minor/option/emphasis: Dance

Year: Senior
Hometown/State: Iowa

Type of experience: Internship
Company/Organization: Saint Luke's Hospital
Company/Organization website:
Title: Exercise Specialist
Destination: Kansas City, MO
Timeframe: 1/16/17, 4/7/17

Advisor/Coordinator Email:

I was responsible for...
My responsibilities as an Exercise Specialist intern at Saint Luke's Hospital included: - Taking blood pressures at rest, during exercise, and post-exercise - Connecting patients to heart monitors - Taking oxygen saturations - Leading warm-ups and cool-downs - Building individualized exercise routines - Talking to and exercising with patients - Completing spot check evaluations - Performing 6-minute walk tests - Performing LVAD 6-minute walk tests - Performing intake evaluations and orientation meetings - Helping patients with exercise equipment - Labeling medical records - Organizing end of the month records - Case managing patients based on medical history, records, etc.

I accomplished...
I have accomplished a lot since the start of my internship. I have learned more about specific heart disease in more depth due to my packet of handouts that I complete research for, talking with patients about their experiences, and shadowing in the different departments. These things have made my experience here come full circle and has given me a better understanding of the issues, the procedures, and the recovery process in better detail. Again, I have learned so much just from shadowing Nuclear, the Cath lab, and the Echo lab that makes me want to continuing learning the more clinical side of things.

My most valuable effort...
Aside from my basic intern responsibilities I was able to complete a Word of the Week project for the month of March. Word of the Week is an educational and informational session that takes place one week out of each month at the end of each exercise session. Patients that participate in this activity are given informational handouts with a summary of the topic that is being discussed. For my Word of the Week presentations, I taught eight different sessions on the importance of ‘Time Management’ in terms of getting in daily exercise when the weather is bad, when they might be super busy one day, or there’s just simply not time to make it to their local gym or in to cardiac rehab. Another handout I created and discussed with them went hand in hand with our last Word of the Week, ‘nutrition’ which talked about healthy eating options and tips when they are out to eat at a local restaurant or busy on the go. This gave them certain words to look for on a menu that could help them infer which options were healthier than others and ideas on how to ask for their foods to prepared differently that would benefit them more. Word of the Week is a very successful program because the patients are aware that they have or have had a serious condition and they need to take better care of themselves.

I learned...
The most valuable experience I have encountered at Saint Luke's is the relationships I have developed with my patients. I developed a trust and friendship with many of them that I will never forget. Another big accomplishment that goes hand in hand would have to be working with such a variety of patients, whether it be because of race, gender, age, heart condition, or other medical conditions. Because I have been able to work in such a diverse hospital, I have become equipped and confident in building individualized exercise programs based on the specific needs of the patients. Not one single patient is alike and I think it's important to focus on what sets them apart and what their goals/needs are to give them the best experience with us as possible. The most important thing I have learned is that it is all about the people and the relationships you build with those people that keep them coming back.

I will never forget...
My most memorable experience I've had at Saint Luke's is seeing all of the improvements in the patients I have been able to work with. Having patients not be able to walk for more than a couple of minutes at a time without becoming short of breath when they first come in to walking for 6 minutes, twice a session at 91-92% oxygen and no longer complains of being short of air has been very rewarding. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was able to meet a heart transplant patient who had gone through a transplant and his body rejected it. He lived at the hospital and came to cardiac rehab to work out every day with a nurse monitoring him. While I was there he got the call about receiving a new heart and just started our program a few weeks ago as a recovery patient. I have learned so much working in this environment, and to be honest, half of the time I learn more from the patients than I do from the staff or my supervisors. They all are wonderful people and I am very passionate about this program now that I have gotten to be a part of it. I have helped change people’s lives and they have changed mine for the better.

A surprising discovery...
Before completing my internship, I was fully convinced that you could not get a job in Cardiac Rehab or any other job in a clinical setting without receiving a masters degree or a nursing degree. I was wrong. I met many exercise specialists and exercise physiologists in various departments of the hospital aside from cardiac rehab,such as the Cath lab, Echo lab, and Nuclear Medicine with the same degree that I have. This gave me the confidence I needed to progress further with my job shadowing and future job search knowing that I could do it if I really wanted to. If someone is willing to take the chance on you, like Saint Luke's did with me, it is possible to gain the experience needed and network with the right people to find the job that best suits you. I will take this experience and knowledge I've gained from all areas of my internship as well as this mentality with me as I progress toward my future profession, knowing that I am capable of doing the job.

Advice for others...
Do not stress. One thing I think everyone can relate to before going off to do their internship, is that they don't feel prepared enough, smart enough, good enough, etc. If it feels scary, do it anyways. It will be worth it. And once you get to your new job and you find out there really isn't anything to be scared of, remember to just be the best version of you. Your clients/patients/coworkers won't remember how good you were at taking blood pressures, building exercise plans, or leading warm-up. They'll remember how well you worked with others, how well you bonded with your patients/clients, how teachable you are. They'll remember your personality and your attitude towards the task you're assigned. Be a good person and don't take for granted the time you get to spend learning from your colleagues and mentors, but also the time you get to talk with and learn from your patients, as well.

I first learned about this career-building experience from...
I learned about this career-related opportunity from Libby Franke after sitting down with her one day to discuss Cardiac Rehab internship possibilities. I knew that's what I wanted to do my internship in and she helped me connect with a former student who did their internship at Saint Luke's and now works there, as well.

I landed this assignment by...
I landed this opportunity with Saint Luke's after a casual phone interview followed by a more detailed face-to-face interview. The whole process was very casual and everyone was very welcoming. I was able to talk with my boss about why I wanted the job, my hopes for the future, what I wish to gain from my experience, as well as discuss who I am as a person. Having the opportunity to get to know him and have him get to know me helped my chances a lot, I believe.

I wanted this experience because...
Aside from my career goals, I wanted this internship position at Saint Luke's because it has always been my dream to live in Kansas City so that I could become closer to achieving other personal lifelong goals. However, towards the end of my schooling I realized I wanted to work in a clinical setting, like cardiac rehab, working one on one with patients become healthier and recover from their previous setback. I have a long line of heart disease in my family, so seeing my loved ones endure a heart condition amongst other co-morbidities made me want to help others' loved ones combat theirs. After talking with Libby about possible Cardiac Rehab opportunities and telling her I wanted to end up in KC, I got in touch with Saint Luke's and it has been the best experience of my life.

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