Aaron Menz joined a Public Health internship in Cape Town, South Africa, for 8 weeks. Learn more about Aaron’s take on interning in the field, his internship activities, and advice for future interns abroad!
What surprised you about interning in Cape Town, South Africa?
Prior to my arrival in Cape Town, I’d researched the city’s atmosphere regarding the culture, safety, and other important factors to consider before interning abroad. I did not imagine such a friendly welcome from all the other interns that I met. I was able to quickly acquaint myself with my house mates, which allowed me to have company every time I wanted to do an activity in the city. My first week as an intern in Cape Town was amazing - my most memorable moment of the first week was dancing with my new friends on Cape Town’s infamous Long Street. I also realized that Uber is significantly cheaper and safer in Cape Town, so I used this frequently instead of the public transportation. This allowed me to focus on enjoying the pleasure of this city’s beauty and activities.
How did you establish your goals and priorities as a Public Health intern?
My Public Health Internship role was based at a community children’s hospital. During my first week of the internship, I was encouraged to spend a couple of days shadowing staff members, making observations, and providing general assistance to the staff with the care of children and babies within the hospital. This time enabled me to discover my purpose, within the second week of my internship. I quickly learned how sick the children were and I felt determined to create a health education program that would assist them. I wanted to create a program that would provide health education for the mothers and fun activities for the children, in order to assist their developmental processes, improve their motor skills, and improve social cognitive skills. During my first two weeks on the program, I can say that I counselled myself to be patient and to be humble. Good things come with the right attitude!
Can you tell us more about your role as a Public Health intern?
After the insights received during my first week or two of the internship program, I focused on the development of an education program for the patients and the families of discharged patients. I came to develop this education program by first assessing and identifying the needs of the hospital. To do this, I reviewed the facilities to understand the capacity of the hospital to implement a public health program. I began by interviewing key stakeholders (such as the doctor, nurses, care givers, physicians, the social worker, the therapist, client families, and the management team). I took inventory of the hospital to better understand their resources and I also contacted external supporting agencies to solicit assistance with future projects. Prior to implementing the education program for skill development, I spent time analyzing the pros and cons of the idea and collaborating with the key stake holders during planning sessions. Once I was ready to launch the program, it was pre-tested with a smaller group so that I could obtain some feedback before scheduling more broad-scale educational sessions.
Once I launched the skills development program, we were able to provide educational sessions to patients and their families about developmental goals and key milestones for children, “green engineering” (creating toys for children out of recycled materials), and the essential components of good health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual health). The skills development education program also promoted recycling, the importance of bonding with children, and included promotion of compliance with medical, nutritional and therapeutic prescriptions.
I evaluated the success of this program and identified areas for improvement. Surveys about the educational sessions showed an increase in satisfaction with the hospital and the staff, as well as a positive attitude towards health and their child’s health. Lastly, the program was documented and prepared it for long term sustainability.
During this time, I also contributed to clinical meetings by creating an electronic excel spreadsheet, which documented client medical records. This allowed the doctor, physicians, and the social worker to maximize, organize and simplify their meeting times.
What advice do you have for considering this intern abroad program?
My advice for others would be to prepare for an atmosphere where you feel like you are stepping out of your comfort zone. Sometimes feelings of being awkward might occur, but it is ok because all of this is a learning experience. Another very important piece of advice is to not force your own cultural beliefs over anyone else. The moment you think that your culture is better than someone else’s culture, then you are not being culturally competent.
Internships in Cape Town are available year-round and are offered in conjunction with Intern Abroad HQ’s guided reflection program. You can learn more through our Cape Town internships Q & A. Looking for something a bit different? Diverse international healthcare internships are also available or contact us to have a chat.