Completing an internship in a pandemic
by Laura Brady, Georgian College graduate
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we approach care, interactions with others, and recreation and leisure in general. I felt very grateful to be able to complete my internship in mental health care while still under strict restrictions. There was an option to complete an internship the following semester when this situation had hopefully improved, however I saw value in learning throughout these uncertain times. I am very glad that I chose to do this because I have had the opportunity to see various parts of the hospital and have witnessed positive changes inpatient care. Here are 5 pieces of advice for anyone preparing to complete their internship.
1. Be prepared and accepting of change
Adapting to change is necessary for many professionals, this is especially true working in a care facility during a pandemic. Many of the hospital staff where I completed my internship have been redeployed to other units to cover staffing shortages. Observing professionals in transition between their roles and responsibilities has been very helpful in learning to accept change. Change is always an opportunity to gain new experiences, meet new people, and learn new information. Networking with others is a very important part of the professional role and will only further your knowledge. Remaining resilient to change is also a healthy and valuable skill for professionals to have.
2. Offer positive distractions
It is important to remove the focus away from the current restrictions and towards adaptations for meaningful recreation and leisure. Programming, games, and activities can be adapted so that they are safe and comfortable for all participants. Also, as a Recreation Therapist, it is an essential part of the job to make activities genuinely fun and enjoyable for participants. It can feel discouraging to be limited in terms of the interventions we can provide for clients with the current restrictions. For this reason, it is necessary to be creative and encourage people to work with what they currently have. Health teaching included reminding clients to wear their masks is important, because it will strengthen their social skills for community involvement.
3. Encourage anyone who is having a hard time
We can support clients who are struggling and engage with them to improve their care. I have learned that consistency can be effective when working to create a therapeutic relationship with patients. It may seem frustrating to ask the same person if they want to come to your program every day, however, this repetition can have a positive impact. That person may come to expect your requests and will begin to anticipate your presence. Sometimes people may want to participate, but do not know how to go about it. You may notice that some clients prefer one on one engagement while others feel comfortable in a group setting. Consistent interactions can make a significant positive impact on a person’s life and recovery.
4. Communicate and learn from other professionals
Asking questions and asking for clarification is a very important part of the learning experience throughout the internship. I learned that staff are friendly and approachable, and willing to share information with students. Everyone learns in their own way and therefore everyone will complete the same task in their own unique way. Networking with professionals is also beneficial for your future career and success in Therapeutic Recreation. Learning about past mistakes, successes, and experiences from others will compliment your knowledge for future work.
5. Reflect back on what you learned in class
Course content was very helpful in preparing for the internship, especially related to the role of the Recreation Therapist in care. You can incorporate your completed assignments into your time at the organization, such as implementing your program ideas. It may be difficult to organize and make decisions for your internship workplan before beginning. For this reason, it is beneficial to meet with your preceptor before starting so that you can ask questions and feel prepared. At first, I felt overwhelmed by the competencies I needed to complete throughout the internship. However, once I started and met the clients it was simple to piece together my workplan for the semester. You can also learn a lot from fellow classmates when brainstorming program ideas and content together. Keep your important school notes organized together for easy reviewing.
Internship is a great experience and I wish everyone the best of luck!