Before entering college, Gabriella Wilson knew she wanted to pursue a career in psychology. But she wasn’t sure if she wanted to work with children or adults.
So Gabriella, a sophomore psychology major at Keuka College, took an opportunity to find the answer in a familiar place. She spent her January Field Period® at a pediatrician’s office at the Olean Medical Center – where she herself was a patient as a child!
Gabriella worked primarily with Nichole Green, a physician’s assistant. One skill she hoped to gain from her Field Period® was how to interact with both adults and children in a clinical setting.
“I observed Nichole’s appointments and got to see children as young as a week old, and as old as 18,” says Gabriella, who was present for physical exams, sick visits, and other appointments. “I was also fortunate to shadow some of the nurses in the office while they took blood pressure, temperature, weight, and administered shots.”
Gabriella says most parents and patients were more than happy to let her observe their appointments.
“That meant a lot to me,” she says. “I’m sure it might have been out of their comfort zone to have a student there during the appointment. But everyone was kind and willing to let me learn. Sometimes, parents were frustrated when a solution to their child’s problem was not readily available. I found that parents are protective of their children and only want the best for them, and understandably so.”
So, she says she learned how to interact with the parents with patience, kindness, and grace. She also got a better idea of how to communicate with children of various ages.
“Obviously, you wouldn't talk to a four-year-old the same way you would talk to a 15-year-old, and that’s an important piece in working with children in any environment,” says Gabriella.
And while Gabriella says the nurses, parents, and patients were willing to share their current aliments with her, she says one of her biggest challenges was not having a full history of each patient.
“I did not have access to patients’ charts, so sometimes it was confusing walking into an appointment and trying to understand what was going on,” says Gabriella. “The best way I solved this problem was to always, always, always ask questions, and be okay with not always getting the answer.”
After completing this experience, Gabriella believes Field Period® is a wonderful opportunity to explore options in your major and gain experience outside of a classroom.
“Field Period® also helps make connections that are beneficial in the future for a career,” she says. “Making a good impression can allow for the possibility to do another Field Period®, internship, future job opportunities, or contacts and connections for jobs post-graduation. Make the best of your Field Period® and there’s no doubt you'll benefit from it!”
And for Gabriella’s post-graduation plans, she says her next step is to attend a graduate program in counseling or psychology.
“Child psychologists are scarce, especially in my area, and now I’m actually interested in working with children, which surprised me,” says Gabriella. “I hope to eventually earn my Ph.D. in psychology and work in my own practice, possibly as a developmental psychologist.”