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Learn and Live

Rachael Grenfell-Dexter

Over the summer, I began volunteering at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. I always wanted to sign up, but would usually forget about the deadline and, by the time I remembered, it was too late and registration closed! Part of the reason I succeeded this time was because of my Hospitalized Child Class. I stumbled upon this class during registration period and it was a perfect fit for what I am interested in. I am pursuing becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner through Vanderbilt School of Nursing’s accelerated program. While completing all of the pre-requisites to qualify to apply to the nursing school this year, I have been pursing a Medicine, Health and Society major.

What exactly is the Medicine, Health and Society major? MHS allows students to explore across disciplines to gain a more holistic perspective on what health is within our society and how it affects the medical field. I love the major because it is very amenable and able to fit your scopes of interest. I have been very interested in learning more about child development, global health, and health disparities. My Hospitalized Child class is one of the classes that fall under the electives that for the MHS major. I’m going to shamelessly promote and brown-nose (a little bit) by letting you know that this is one of my favorite classes I have taken during my entire undergraduate career. We have volunteered at a medical summer camp, heard from and spoken to a variety of professionals that work with children in the hospital context. Our talks have included thought provoking discussions with child life therapists, hospital chaplains, music therapists, researchers, and parents of children coming from unique hospital experiences.

In addition to the fantastic class material we have been able to cover and the articles that (shocker!) I am always excited to read, we volunteer at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. An added bonus is that my dorm apartment is on the block next to the hospital. Regardless, of the the distance perk, it has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I get to work with the Child Life Department at the Pediatric Emergency Department. Of course I am not pulling out defibrillators or anything crazy that requires rigorous training. Most of what I do is talking to parents, offering to take care of their child if they need to step out, cleaning toys, playing games with children while they wait for the doctor, and handing out snacks and blankets. I really enjoy the experiences I have had with patients, but also, I have been moved by the times I am able to interact with the nurses, child life specialists and doctors. I am always touched by how dedicated they are to caring for the children and inspired to become someone who does the same!

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