Mayo Clinic externship: Two OHSU School of Nursing students participate

04/29/13  Portland, Ore.

Two OHSU School of Nursing students have won coveted summer externships at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

 By Lee Lewis Husk

Michael Farthing of Portland and Tamara Whittle of Albany, both third-year students, were among 100 students selected from a field of 900 applicants across the country.

The Mayo Clinic offers Summer III, a 10-week externship to nursing students between their junior and senior years. Students get one shot at being selected, and the highly competitive process involves submitting a resume, transcript, two essays and a faculty recommendation.

Farthing and Whittle will spend the summer, starting June 3, in Minnesota and will do a two-week orientation. After that, they’ll join a nurse preceptor for hands-on training and observation for the remaining eight weeks. Participants receive an hourly wage while working in the hospital.

The “Summer IIIs,” as they are called, can also take classes, attend presentations and other activities. And because many will live in housing partially subsidized by the Mayo Clinic, they’ll have the chance to meet and socialize with other students from around the country.

Both students commented on the Mayo Clinic’s reputation for patient-centered care and that the externship would give them additional experience in preparation for jobs after graduation. “I’m trying to prepare myself for 18 months from now and I’m on my own and my clinical faculty isn’t there to hold my hand,” Farthing says.

For those hoping to work at Mayo, the externship gives them a leg up. After graduation from nursing school, 78 to 85 percent of Summer III alumni return to Rochester for employment.

Michael Farthing: From architect to nurse

Farthing had been a practicing architect for 15 years when he decided that his bucket list included service to others and saw nursing as a way to achieve that dream. He took prerequisites at Portland Community College, was accepted to OHSU nursing school in 2011 and started in the fall of 2011.

From the outset, he had his eye on the Mayo externship. “Among all the summer externships, Mayo is a well-defined entity in the student nursing world,” he says. “It’s a big institution with a great reputation.”

Liz Shatzer, Ed.M, Student Affairs associate, put him in touch with a recent OHSU alumna, Karina Squire, who completed the Mayo Summer III program in 2010.  “We really do have fabulous alumni, and I am so pleased to see them connecting, sharing and assisting our current students in such as meaningful way,” Shatzer says.

Like many other Summer IIIs, Squire returned to Mayo for a job after graduating from OHSU (she attended the La Grande campus). She currently works in the cardiovascular/heart-lung transplant intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester and will be starting a DNP program at the University of Minnesota in the nearby Twin Cities.

Farthing touched base with Squire about the externship, and she advised him to spend a lot of time on the application. “It was an opportunity to be a mentor to someone else,” she says. Farthing said he appreciated Squire’s advice as well as the help he got from OHSU clinical instructor, Ginger Keller, R.N., M.S., C.N.S., who reviewed his application and helped him throughout the process.

“Both OHSU and the Mayo Clinic offer students a significant background in progressive, patient-centered care, which is difficult to get in other settings,” he says. “This externship will accelerate the learning process.”

Farthing says faculty members, like Carla Pentecost, R.N., M.S., drive home the message that education is ultimately about how you’re going to take care of the patient. “Why am I doing this? Why am I traveling across the country for my summer?” he asks rhetorically. “The answer is, I want the responsibility to take care of patients. It’s a responsibility I can’t take lightly.”

Tamara Whittle: From clinical research coordinator to nurse

Whittle doesn’t think of nursing as a second career but rather an extension of work she did as a clinical research coordinator for pharmaceutical trials related to prostate cancer, overactive bladder and sexual dysfunction in a urology practice and later as a research manager in clinical trials for heart disease and diabetes studies in a large multispecialty clinic in Eugene. Ultimately, she decided direct patient care was where she belonged.

She applied to and was accepted at OHSU’s Monmouth campus, starting in 2011. She felt nursing would provide an avenue for creating positive relationships with other people. She also wanted to help educate patients about how to take an active role in their own health care.

Nursing school has provided her with other opportunities as well. She currently serves as president of the Monmouth Student Nurses Association. “I want to have a well-rounded nursing education so that when I graduate, I don’t have tunnel vision focused on just working in a hospital. There are so many areas outside the hospital that are equally important for nurses to consider.”

Research on healthy aging is another interest. She was recently accepted into an honors research program new to the Monmouth campus. Three faculty members will mentor six students for three terms. Whittle says the purpose is to evaluate and critique evidence related to nursing practice, conduct an extensive literature review to find gaps in the knowledge and then develop a research proposal related to a specific nursing practice.

About the Mayo Clinic, she also got help on her application from Leslie Edwards, now a fourth-year student on the Monmouth campus, who attended the Summer III program last summer. She offered Whittle help on everything from reviewing her resume to advice on what to pack for a Minnesota summer. Nick Miehl, R.N., M.S.N., one of Whittle’s clinical instructors, worked with her on the application and wrote a letter of recommendation.

For her, the Mayo externship is about strengthening her education and clinical expertise in a facility that’s well known around the world as a leader in health care. “I’m really excited to get there and see what the experience is like. Sounds like a dreamland to me.”


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