Eugene Lu has big plans for his future. Currently a patient attendant on the patient transport team, he plans on pursuing a career in health care and, more specifically, as a physician. It’s a goal that he says was even clearer after participating in the job shadow program at Nebraska Medicine.
"I found out that job shadowing was an option around the time I started as a patient attendant," Lu said. "I wanted to see if being a physician was a good fit for me."
Through the program, Lu’s been able to meet and shadow six physicians, each with a different specialty. They include neurologist Mac McLaughlin, MD; neurosurgeon William Thorell, MD; surgical oncologist Jessica Shank, MD; cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Moulton, MD; psychiatrist Lauren Edwards, MD; and transplant surgeon Arika Hoffman, MD.
"It was great. I really got to interact with each physician and see what day-to-day life is like for them. I also gained a little insight into the good and bad parts of being a physician," he said. "For me, psychiatry stood out because of how intentional and deep the conversations were."
Taylor Burghardt also knows firsthand how valuable it can be for students to have a job shadow experience. She first learned about the program when she participated in the UNMC High School Alliance.
"As a part of the high school alliance program, we got to shadow different individuals both in a hospital setting and outside of it, which exposed me to the fantastic shadowing opportunities at Nebraska Medicine," she said.
Now, Burghardt’s a certified nursing assistant on the med surg floor at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. Most recently, she shadowed in surgical oncology and is looking forward to exploring additional opportunities once the program opens up Monday, May 30. Her plan is to someday work in pediatrics; she’s currently applying to medical and physician assistant programs.
"Shadowing has been an amazing experience for me. It not only gives insight into how the health care field operates, but also provides an opportunity to determine if this is a field you would like to pursue," Burghardt said. "You can ask questions and hear stories about how physicians and other professionals got to the position they currently hold. You essentially get to experience a day in their life, which helps tremendously when it comes to choosing your future career and potential specialty."
Getting that insider’s perspective of health care careers is the main goal of the program, according to Frank Pietrantoni, director of Nebraska Medicine's Office of Health Professions Education. The office oversees all job shadows and arranges the experiences, which are typically between two and four hours long. They’re not designed to include hands-on patient care, but provide an opportunity to observe and ask questions.
"Our hope is that participants leave with an excitement and enthusiasm to pursue a career in health care," Pietrantoni said. "An added bonus is when they leave their experiences with an appreciation of the talent and culture at Nebraska Medicine and want to be a part of it."
That’s certainly been the case for Burghardt and Lu.
"Shadowing played a big part in me working at Nebraska Medicine as opposed to another facility," Burghardt said. "I have seen how good the care is here and how well units work as a team. I knew this would be the best place to gain that direct patient care experience. I have truly enjoyed my time here. I am exposed to all types of patients and have gained invaluable knowledge that will undoubtedly be useful in the future."
Said Lu, "I would definitely say that shadowing helped solidify my desire to be in health care. Being a physician is a great combination of cutting-edge learning and intentional listening. It was amazing to see how patient the doctors were and how they listened to the patient first. My next steps are applying to med school and hopefully going to UNMC."