Gaining Confidence and Forming Relationships

Delaney W. and Braden K., two UPenn Nursing students, joined our most recent cohort of students who took part in an on-site internship last fall with HMS School. Delaney Wilkinson is a rising senior who will be graduating from the School of Nursing this May, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Peer and fellow senior, Braden Keenan is also a Nursing student who is pursuing his Bachelor’s degree. He is also a Flynn Fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Learn more about their experiences at HMS and their career aspirations below.

Delaney Wilkinson
Braden Keenan

Tell us more about you!
[BK] My name is Braden Keenan (he/him) and I am a senior nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania. I am originally from Northwest New Jersey. After graduation, I am hoping to work in pediatric oncology.

[DW] My name is Delaney Wilkinson, I am 22 years old, and I’m originally from Westport, Massachusetts. Outside of my love for healthcare, I enjoy reading (my Goodreads goal is 65 books this year!), traveling, scuba diving, and cooking/baking. I plan to become a pediatric intensive care nurse after I graduate later this year, in May 2022.

When you heard that you were going to be joining HMS School for this opportunity, what were you most looking forward to?
[BK] When I first heard that I would be at HMS, I was very excited as I am hoping to work in pediatrics after school. However, I was also slightly nervous, naturally, as I did not have much experience working with individuals with disabilities. Despite this concern, this also made me excited as I knew it would allow me to gain confidence working with this population.

[DW] The majority of my clinical experiences so far have been in acute hospital settings where I would have different patients each day. During this opportunity, I was really looking forward to getting to know some of the students better and forming relationships with them through prolonged interactions.

What was your favorite part about this internship experience?
[BK] My favorite part of this internship was working with team 1 and the residents! Prior to first day, I honestly had no idea that HMS had a Residential Program where students lived on-site! The residency is a great form of respite care that allows their students to gain independence and to explore their own communication abilities through expressing their wants and needs. I loved talking with the team 1 nurses, PCAs, and students about their experiences!

[DW] I would say that my favorite part of this opportunity, for me, was the 1-on-1 time I got with some of the students. Whether it was dancing with a group on the terrace, singing silly songs while giving feeds, or playing hide and seek, I felt like I was able to connect with the students while also having lots of fun.

What is the most unexpected or rewarding lesson learned that you’ll take with you?
[BK] I was most surprised to learn about student communication using their devices. Prior to my time with HMS, I had little experience working with people who have CP, had all been with verbal individuals. Therefore, it took me by surprise the first week that so many students used devices. Thanks to the ample time I spent with the students (and the nurses who helped to teach me about each of the students), I grew to feel confident understanding what each student meant.

[DW] Something that I greatly admired at this school was the staff’s ability to leave the stresses of the outside world behind when working with students. They consistently gave the students the best possible version of themselves, and I think that this is a goal that I will always make a priority.

How do you envision yourself utilizing your new-found knowledge in your professional career endeavors or future studies?
[BK] While I don’t see myself working strictly with this particular patient population, I do know that I will likely come across these patients while working at a hospital. After this experience, I not only feel more comfortable in my nursing skills – such as using G and J tubes – but, also feel more comfortable simply speaking to these individuals and understanding how communication varies from patient to patient. In this instance, understanding how HMS students use their devices to communicate.

[DW] I have known for the last few years that I wanted to work with the pediatric population, but this clinical absolutely helped to solidify this for me. As a future critical care nurse, I will be taking care of people on some of the worst days of their lives, and it will be my responsibility to treat everyone with kindness, dignity, and respect.

Why do you feel that it’s valuable for more people to have experience working with students and young adults with disabilities?
[BK] It is extremely vital to get experience working with individuals with disabilities because as a nurse, you never know who your next patient will be. It is important that you learn the skills that are needed for when working with this population. This experience greatly helped me to learn what resources are available to this patient population. Seeing these resources first-hand not only gave me a greater sense of awareness, but will also allow me to connect my future patients with the resources they need.

[DW] I have grown up with people with disabilities my entire life. My mom always tells the following story of when I was in my first month of first grade and came home asking her to put my hair in braids from then on. When she asked why, I said that my friend Sage kept tugging on my hair, and it would just be easier if it was pulled back. Like any good mother, she grew quite concerned that another little girl was pulling my hair until she learned that Sage had some disabilities that limited her understanding. Even though she wasn’t able to communicate in “traditional” ways, Sage was my very first and best school friend, and once old enough, I worked as her personal care attendant at home. I truly and wholeheartedly believe that we all have so much to learn from people with disabilities.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in joining this internship program through UPenn?
[BK] The biggest piece of advice I would give to a student interested in this internship is to do it! Don’t be concerned if you do not have experience working in pediatrics or experience working with individuals with disabilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Everyone at HMS has been a great help in my learning and this is truly an amazing opportunity.

[DW] My best piece of advice is just to go in with an open mind and heart. As I said, these kids have so much to teach us if we are just open to it. Don’t be afraid to act goofy, to get down on their level, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. You’re not going to want to leave by the end!