Discover Internships: Respite Care

“Through my four years at the University, I have worked as a respite in Cedar Rapids, taking care of a young girl with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. It didn’t take long to realize how this job was benefitting me far beyond simply making some money and getting health care experience.” Read below to learn about Anna’s experience and how it influenced her time at Iowa!

My responsibilities as a respite include basic care-giving responsibilities, like assistance with meals, medicine administration, transportation, personal hygiene, and daily tasks. Because the patient is epileptic, a large responsibility was seizure protocols. I have spent summers with the patient for the last three years. My biggest goal for summers with the patient was to help contribute to an enriched experience for the patient as a teenager. We would go for ice cream, shop at Homegoods and Von Maur, go to the pool, visit her friends’ houses, and also work on physical therapy and Pilates. I put in a lot of effort into finding new activities for us to try every week. I attached a few photos of some of our summer highlights. 

A photo of the patient and I at one of her Kiwanis Miracle League baseball games. They have a great handicap-accessible field! 

It didn’t take long for the patient and I to form a bond. She has a great sense of humor and we share many inside jokes. I received a few nicknames and always went along with it because it gave her the biggest kick. The work I was doing was fulfilling in itself, but the patient’s joyful spirit makes this job even more enjoyable. I realized in addition to being this patient’s caregiver, I am her companion and advocate. Besides gaining the trust and acceptance from the patient, I also developed a positive relationship with the patient’s family. Because I was working in the patient’s home every day, I made an effort to make the family feel as comfortable as possible with me being there.

The patient and I playing tennis summer of 2021. 

When the world changed in 2020 due to COVID-19, I moved home full time and was able to work with the patient even more. I was a fully remote student and felt isolated from my classmates and professors often. Being able to go to work with the patient helped me stay grounded that year. We depended on each other during that unprecedented time. Aside from the fantastic relationship I developed with the patient and her family, I got some great perspective about my professional goals through this experience as a respite. During my experience, I was in the process of deciding on a career to go into. Originally, I was pre-med. This job allowed me to see many possible careers in the health care field. I took the patient to various appointments with doctors, chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and physical therapists. I saw the various careers that consist of the patient contact. I loved the patient contact I experienced as a respite and knew that my future career had to involve that. 

The patient and I relaxing outside in our matching Iowa t-shirts. We bonded over our love for the University of Iowa Hawks! 

Additionally, I gained self-confidence in my ability to deal with stressful situations. Responding to seizures was a skill that I honed. Through this experience, I also discovered that I hold strong values of empathy and respect in health care. I got to observe how all aspects of medicine, even as small as the supply chain for pharmaceuticals, directly impacts the home of a patient with medical conditions. This experience confirmed my desire to work in the health care field. I am excited to apply to physician assistant school following graduation this spring. 

I have continued my job as a respite for this patient up to the present. Being a respite has been one of the best decisions of my college career because I gained a life-long friend and discovered personal growth and clarity for my desired career. The feeling of fulfillment after leaving each shift reminds me that I will have a rewarding career in health care. There’s no better feeling than helping someone, and the idea of getting to do that for a living makes me excited to get out there and begin my career! 

Author Bio:

My name is Anna Klein and I am a graduating senior from the University of Iowa. I was born in California and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I majored in Health and Human Physiology and plan to apply to physician assistant school. I enjoy running and baking, and I love being a student. Some of my college highlights have been football games, my job as a server at the University of Iowa, my courses through the Health and Human Physiology Department, and my job as a respite, of course. 

Edited by: Delaney McDowell, Honors Admin


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