For Danielle Fisher, a charge nurse at Herrin Hospital, a high school internship has helped shape her career. Fisher was in the first class of students accepted for the Southern Illinois Healthcare Summer Internship Program in 2005.

Kristin King, leader of talent acquisition for SIH, interviewed Fisher for that internship. King said the program started in 2005 mainly as a recruitment tool.

“Our focus is to get into the high schools and show the students all the opportunities in SIH,” King said.

That first group was pretty small. King said it doubled, then tripled as other students learned about the program from their friends and classmates.

“Almost half of the interns from 2005 are still working for us,” King said.

The percentage of interns who go on to work for SIH is high, especially if they attend a local university or community college. Then, they tend to stay in the area for their careers, according to King. They are loyal to SIH because the organization gave them the opportunity to explore different careers.

Fisher was interested in nursing in high school, but also in physical therapy and lab and research. She was a students in Murphysboro High School’s two-year CNA program. After her internship, she had a clearer picture.

Fisher shadowed a nurse at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro and saw the difference she made, particularly in a patient on hospice and a young patient who was transferred to a different hospital.

Fisher progressed through her career from CAN to registered nurse to earning her bachelor’s degree and is considering becoming a nurse practitioner. She worked two years at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, two years at Miner’s Memorial Health Center and six years at Herrin Hospital.

“I love coming to work. I really love this place,” Fisher said.

On Tuesday, SIH welcomed its 12th cohort of summer interns for orientation.

The eight week program encourages high school students to consider careers in health care, such as laboratory, nursing, radiology, respiratory therapy, physical or occupational therapy, pharmacy or other healthcare fields. In addition to a peek into different career opportunities, students earn college credit from their community college district.

Summer interns start with orientation similar to any new employee at SIH. Go through the Real Colors assessment that system employees go through, get a picture ID badge and learn about HIPPA compliance and privacy in healthcare.

“So they know what they can and cannot do,” Sara Hilton, recruiter for SIH, said.

Hilton and Amy Vance, student services recruiter, led the new interns through exercises learning their personalities and how each one differs from other types of personalities, as well as how different personality traits might show up in the workplace.

Patricia Dominguez, graduate of Murphysboro High School, was excited to be exposed to new fields. Both her parents are trauma nurses, and her father just finished his master’s degree.

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“My parents had two sets of twins, and I am the oldest one. I feel like I have to follow in their footsteps,” Patricia said.

Elizabeth Fritsche is interested in the health care field, but she has not decided exactly what field she wants to pursue. She is hoping her summer internship will help her decide.

“I want to be able to travel and get a job anywhere,” Elizabeth said.

Rea Yoh is thinking about majoring in biophysics in college, but she knows she would like to become a physician. Recently, Rea read an article on NPR about how healthcare providers in rural areas are kind of perpetuating the opioid epidemic.

“I think it is great that a lot of people want to be doctors, but they really need to want to take care of patients,” Rea said.

Interns will also learn interview skills and how to network.

“This is real life and a growing up moment,” Fisher said.

Fisher has a special interest in this year’s interns. Her niece, Katelyn Hopper, a junior at Herrin High School, is one of the interns.

For more information on the Summer Internship Program, visit www.sih.net.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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