By Annie Vasquez, 2019 North Carolina State Employees Credit Union Fellow at Vecinos
Vecinos Farmworker Health Program – a special place with employees who all have a passion for improving the lives of those they serve. What a joy it has been to have worked by all of their sides as an intern this summer. As a college student studying Nursing and Spanish, Vecinos has been an extraordinary place for me to grow, serve, learn more about things that interest me, and most importantly, become more prepared for my future career.
One great thing that I have learned throughout my time with Vecinos is about the Hispanic culture. Since a large portion of the patients that I will serve as a nurse in the future will be Hispanic, this is something that I have been wanting to learn more about for a while and is something that I know is critical for me to be knowledgeable about. From my experiences getting to know Hispanic farmworkers at our weekly clinic nights, on outreach, and at home visits, I feel like I am now much more informed about the Hispanic culture in order to better serve those patients in the future.
My experiences shadowing providers, nurses, and interpreters at clinic and at outreach have taught me so much medical information that I didn’t know prior to my internship with Vecinos. In addition to learning copious amounts of new medical information, I have had the opportunity to apply what I have already learned in my nursing classes to things that have occurred in Vecinos medical settings. For instance, I have learned how to read lab results in my university classes, and therefore have been able to understand the medical information that the providers have talked with their patients about while shadowing them. I have also had opportunities to engage in conversations that medical providers have had with the Vecinos staff regarding patient treatment plans or medication that is being given to a patient, all because of the medical knowledge I already have. It has been a great experience learning new information that I can apply to my future career and also being able to connect what I already know to things I have learned within this internship.
Vecinos has also taught me the importance of effective communication, which I have found to be a very important and helpful skill to practice as I continue to work towards becoming a bilingual nurse. I have learned this through my internship because at Vecinos, it takes the whole team to work together and communicate about what each of us are doing in order to reach our goals. I have especially learned the importance of communicating in an effective way within a healthcare setting because the majority of the patients that Vecinos serves have a language barrier, which makes it difficult for them to access medical care and many other things. Therefore, providing medical interpretation services for patients who do not speak English is one of the big services that Vecinos provides. Without these services, our Spanish speaking patients would either not be able to receive medical services or they would struggle communicating their needs and concerns to a healthcare professional.
Another great thing that Vecinos has helped me understand while working with them is the importance of finding an organization to work for that you enjoy and are passionate about. Vecinos is a great place to work but unless you enjoy serving and helping others you will not be a good fit for the organization. I have had great days and I have also had hard days working with Vecinos, but each of those moments have been worth it to me because of the impact that I know I have been making in the community. I know that my attitude would be much different about my experiences if I did not have a passion for working in the healthcare field or putting service above myself. This internship has confirmed that the career I am pursuing is truly something that I am interested in, enjoy, and am extremely passionate about doing for the rest of my life.
All of the learning experiences that I have mentioned are only a handful of things that I have taken from my internship with Vecinos. I am positive that because of what I have learned through this organization, I will one day be a more successful nurse than I would have been without this experience. I hope that anyone who is pursuing a career in the healthcare field or anyone who is interested in becoming more involved with the western North Carolina community, has an opportunity to get involved with Vecinos. I can promise that no matter what you do with the organization, that you will leave feeling like you have made a difference in the lives around you and will also be able to take something with you that you can apply to either your career, personal life, or both. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity of having a unique learning experience like one that Vecinos offers.