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Nursing student gets opportunity to see and help change the world around us

Posted: Aug. 22, 2012

Elizabeth Heitkemper

Elizabeth Heitkemper is in her third and final year of the Alternate Entry Master’s in Nursing program. She is specializing in Public Health with a focus in biobehavioral health and chronic disease management. Ms. Heitkemper was one of seven Intramural Research Training Appointment Summer Fellows in the Department of Nursing and Patient Care Services at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Elizabeth Heitkemper

Dr. Clare Hastings, Chief Nursing Officer, and
Elizabeth Heitkemper

As an intern at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I enjoyed a wide spectrum of experiences. By observing an Institutional Review Board meeting, I learned more about the process that ensures protection of human subjects in research. During micro-rounds, I saw how the highly antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae is carefully monitored to prevent emergence among patientsand toured the Special Clinical Studies Unit, where employees of biosafety level-4 labs (which deal with deadly viruses like Ebola) are monitored and cared for in cases of occupational accidents.

On rounds of the famous Undiagnosed Disease Clinic led by Dr. William Gahl, I witnessed patient care practices for people with extremely rare diseases who come hoping to obtain better symptom management — and a diagnosis.

The NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The commitment of the staff to scholarship and learning within the discipline of health was exemplified by my mentors Dr. Clare Hastings, Chief Nursing Officer, and Dr. Cheryl Fisher, Program Director of Professional Development. Under their guidance and support, I completed a research project and produced a professional poster comparing the national role of clinical research nurses to those of other countries, which I presented after my eight-week internship.

Encouraged by this summer’s activities (and my mentors’ continued support), I intend to transform the poster presentation into a publication. The spirit of collaboration in research that I experienced at the NIH inspired me to continue my studies in nursing, a field whose members continually seek to better the health of our country and its people.

Originally published on The University of Texas at Austin: Student Summer Series web page.