Having interviewed and hired almost a month before, it felt like this day would never come, but it had. I was outside the NHPCO office, preparing to walk into my first internship experience. I had been preparing for weeks for this moment, studying the Quality Connections program I would be working on, reviewing acronyms I would need for understanding conversations around the office, tirelessly taking notes, and learning as much as I could about the intricacies of hospice and palliative care. My boss, Hope Fost, had even sent me access to the Quality Connections portal early to look it over and give feedback. But the day had arrived, and it was time to put the rubber on the road.
As a first-year college student from Georgia studying Economics, I can safely say the last place I expected to be was in Alexandria, Virginia, preparing to work on the quality of hospices and palliative care centers nationwide. But here I was. My first few days were constant meetings, with multiple team members helping me get up to speed with everything I would need to know for success. The staff had everything lined up for me perfectly for me to be my best immediately and showed me the tight-knit nature of NHPCO.
Hope made sure to keep me busy on significant projects from the start, immediately allowing me to catch up on data entry for multiple programs. I awarded credit to our members for their participation in Quality Connections, including the Evaluation of Grief Support Services and the Survey of Team Attitudes and Relationships. While I enjoyed this work, I also am proud of how deeply involved I got to be in NHPCO's programs. I assisted in revamping our Measures of Excellence dashboard, wrote a new standard operating procedure for one of our trickier databases, and got to participate in our Virtual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day representing my home state, which was a great honor.
Even though I was kept busy, I had plenty of opportunities to learn about all the parts of NHPCO. I found out quickly that there is always something new to learn, even on those rare days where there is not much coming across your desk. I spoke to members of our Hospice Action Network (HAN) to learn more about their day-to-day work. Those meetings ultimately led to a project collaboration between the Quality Team and HAN, which will strengthen both teams long-term by allowing our policy advocates access to our relevant data to represent our members even better than before. I also got to try out my hand at marketing one of the Quality Team’s revamped programs!
In all of this, I learned about myself as well. I discovered that I could thrive in an environment different from any I had ever experienced. I found out that I could be more flexible than I ever had to be before. Most of all, I learned that I could do more than I thought and that I should not box myself in as much as I do. I will carry all that I have learned about caring for those near the end of life and those dealing with serious illnesses, as well as the joy of getting to work with the amazing individuals here at NHPCO, into the future as I go through all parts of my life.