Nicole Chambers and Wendy Barrios, seniors studying kinesiology at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), will have a significant advantage when applying for post-graduate healthcare programs, and invaluable work experience that is often hard to acquire at the undergraduate level.
The students, who both are earning their Bachelors of Arts in Physical Education, with the pre-physical therapy option, at CSUDH, were chosen as the first recipients of the new Kaiser Permanente Mobility Technician Internship, which was launched in the fall 2014.
Developed through a partnership between CSUDH’s Division of Kinesiology and Recreation and Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center in Harbor City, the four-month internship provides students a unique opportunity to participate in direct care that helps patients maintain their mobility during hospitalization.
Chambers believes the internship will provide her exceptional applied experience and a more complete picture of the field.
“I’m excited about gaining hands-on experience and working under some of the most renowned doctors in the physical therapy industry. From our tour [of the center], I learned we will definitely be getting a lot of insight into what doctors do, on and behind the scene,” said Chambers, who lives in Carson. “I’m thrilled and honored to be picked to work within a highly respectable organization such as Kaiser. This will definitely be a great experience.”
The interns are part of a healthcare team in the medical center’s Physical Therapy Department. They receive constant supervision and training as they work with patients to keep them mobile and active, while learning essential clinical communication and documentation skills. They also participate in hospital-wide trainings, such as general hospital orientation, to learn about infection prevention, patient privacy, security, and other issues relevant to working in healthcare.
Scott Cheatham, assistant professor and director of the Pre-Physical Therapy Program at CSUDH, led the development of the partnership with Kaiser Permanente and remains the faculty coordinator.
“At the undergraduate level, our students will be able to work with patients of all different functional levels and cultures, and they will learn communication skills that are often only learned during clinical experiences in graduate school,” said Cheatham, who is still in clinical practice as a physical therapist. “These students will also be able to document this internship on their applications, which may separate them from the many applicants who apply to doctor of physical therapy programs across the nation.”
Andrea Jurgens, Kaiser’s director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, said that CSUDH is a “special partner” with the health center, in large part due to the university’s reputation for being “truly invested in the community” it serves.
“We’ve long partnered with Cal State Dominguez Hills and were looking for opportunities to deepen that relationship. We have many staff members who have studied at CSUDH, so establishing this internship program will help us familiarize students with the Kaiser Permanente care model, which is very focused on prevention and care integration,” said Jurgens. “This program also benefits our patients by giving them that extra encouragement to move more often, even while hospitalized.”
Barrios looks forward to the internship and how the experience will help boost both her college and professional careers.
“I believe this program is valuable for a number of reasons. First, it provides me with inpatient clinic experience that is relevant to most post-graduate health care programs,” said Barrios, a Lawndale resident who expects to graduate fall 2015. “It also teaches interns to work in a team—a valuable skill in any sector—and reinforces the connection between physical mobility and overall health.”
Chambers has been involved in sports for 18 years. When she began her college career and heard the term “sports medicine,” she knew that was exactly what she wanted to do.
“I sometimes bounce back and forth between wanting to do athletic training and physical therapy, but always gravitate toward physical therapy because of my experience in the field,” said Chambers, who was inspired by the courage and “fight” her mother displayed after suffering a stroke. “I believe I can pull that ‘fight’ out of a person and make them more confident and stronger.”
Barrios, too, has always been athletic. It is her love of sports that introduced her—by circumstance—to physical therapy.
“I developed tendonitis in my wrists my senior year in high school playing volleyball. My doctor sent me to physical therapy and I fell in love with the environment,” she said. “So I thought about making it my profession. I love working out and staying active, and this [degree] major really helps me stay on track with what I love doing, while helping others at the same time. So now I see no other option. This is it. I love it!”