(NORTH SALEM, N.Y.)-- Nicole Mendoza knew what she wanted from the get go. Ever since she was little, pediatric nursing has been a passion of hers, so when it came time to select her internship for the school’s O.P.T.I.O.N.S. program, it was a no brainer. “I have a little brother and a little cousin at home and I’ve always enjoyed spending time with them. At church I’m a teacher too. So I get a lot of one on one time with them and I find it easy to be with children,” she said. After recently obtaining her CNA certificate (Certified Nursing Assistant) she opted to intern with a local pediatrician to get a taste of what it’s like to work in a doctor’s office. The internship placement came through Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES and she was placed with Tomahawk Pediatrics in Yorktown. Mendoza’s internship required a lot of juggling. While she was participating in the program, she would spend mornings at BOCES in Yorktown from 8 to 10 a.m., and then travel to North Salem where she would return for chemistry class, and then back to BOCES again. While she said it was challenging traveling back and forth, coupled with the fact that she does not drive, Mendoza said it was worth it to get the experience. While working at the pediatrician’s office, she worked under a Licensed Practical Nurse who served as her mentor and who taught her such valuable things as infection control and the importance of wearing gowns and masks to ensure patient safety. Mendoza says she also learned a lot about vaccine administration during her tenure there. She said a good nurse needs to have certain qualities, including patience and caring, something that’s necessary when dealing with very young patients, who will often “cry and kick and scream and bite because they are scared.” Nursing also requires good interpersonal skills, she said, as well as empathy and good communication skills in order to be an effective liaison between the doctor and the child’s parent. “You’re always talking to the parents of the patient and the doctor,” Mendoza said. “And parents will always have questions. There’s not a single parent who doesn’t have questions, so it’s important to be a good listener.” The North Salem High School student said working in a doctor’s office presented its daily challenges. “It’s not always easy to be in the healthcare field. Although one person may have a worse case than another, you have to put each one on the same level of importance,” Mendoza said. The high school student walked away with another set of skills that included taking vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, weight and temperature and learned how to properly monitor infants’ growth as well as medication administration and safety precautions for that. She also volunteered at Somers Manor, a rehabilitation and nursing center, where she helped helped to feed, bathe and offer companionship to the elderly residents a few times a week. “They were really happy to have the company and were glad to see us every time,” said Mendoza. “We were able to give them time that not many other people would have time to give them.” In addition to working with a pediatrician’s office and at Somers Manor, Mendoza also took part in a medical assistant program in conjunction with Syracuse University. She explained that she had recently participated in a nationwide competition program designed to rate participants on their skills, and placed fourth in the state as a medical assistant. She is also currently a volunteer at Putnam Hospital Center and the Fieldhome [a rehab and nursing center in Cortlandt Manor], something she plans to continue with. “That also helped me out a lot,” she said. “To realize that this is something I want to keep doing.” Moving forward, Mendoza says she plans to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and eventually a Registered Nurse. She credits her O.P.T.I.O.N.S. internship with helping her in her next step. “After this experience I knew I wanted to continue with pediatrics and that I do want to become a nurse. It’s rewarding and fun.” she said.
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