KOKOMO, Ind. — An externship at a top-rated hospital in the United States changed the trajectory of one Indiana University Kokomo student’s career — and led to her first job.
Before participating in the Summer III Nursing Externship at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, Caitlyn Perkins had never considered caring for heart and lung transplant patients. After her experience working alongside registered nurse clinical coaches, she knew it was where she wanted to begin her career, once she graduated in May 2018.
Since returning to Indiana, she’s landed a job at IU Health Methodist Hospital, on the cardiovascular critical care unit.
“I’d never thought about heart and lung transplants before, and that’s where I accepted a position, and it’s because of the externship,” said Perkins, from Kokomo. “I felt like I grew so much as a nurse. I feel very prepared to walk into someone’s room and introduce myself as their nurse.”
Her preparation at IU Kokomo, along with the externship, played a role in her success.
“The managers were very excited when we talked about it in the interview,” said Perkins, from Kokomo. “It shows that as a student, I was willing to go above and beyond and will do the same as a member of their nursing staff.
She was one of 53 student nurses chosen for the prestigioius Mayo Clinic externship program, out of more than 1,000 applicants. During the 10-week program, Perkins spent time with experienced nurses, helping with patient care. She was impressed with the hospital’s focus on personalizing patient care, and plans to implement what she learned into her own nursing practice as much as possible.
“Every single one of the nurses I worked with was amazing, and really showed me what I want to be as a nurse,” she said. “They really personalize their care. The patients rarely leave their room, because the patient is the center of everything, and you bring everything to them, rather than taking them someplace for treatments.
“I try to personalize my care to the patient, so they feel like they are accommodated. I feel that is the key to being a good nurse.”
The program made her stand out when she interviewed for her job.
Perkins felt well-prepared to succeed in the externship — and now in her career — because of opportunities available to her at IU Kokomo. She kept her eyes open for chances to improve herself personally and professionally while she was a student.
“You have to take advantage of opportunities available outside the classroom, as well as working hard in the classroom,” she said. “There are many options available for students, and you can’t be intimidated by the possibility you will be turned down by one. In the end, I’m so happy I applied for everything I could, and took advantage of everything I could.”
That included working as a student tech at Community Howard Regional Hospital in Kokomo, and getting involved in student life. While earning a Spanish minor, she helped found the Spanish Club. After serving as president of IU Kokomo’s Student Nurses Association, she was elected to state office, as president of the Indiana Association of Student Nurses.
That position gave her the chance to meet student nurses from all over the state, and gave her a great appreciation for her own nursing school.
“I feel IU Kokomo prepares their students to be the best nurses they can be,” Perkins said. “I’ve observed other nursing schools across Indiana, and spoken to students from other schools. I definitely see IU Kokomo as one of the top of the top. We care about our students, and we want our students to be as prepared as they can be.”
She’s thrilled to have found her calling — especially because she began college on another campus, as a business major.
“I loved taking business classes in high school, but my mother told me she thought I would be a great nurse,” Perkins said. “When I came to IU Kokomo and changed my major to nursing, it felt like everything fell into place. It finally felt like I was doing what I was meant to do.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.