My name is Allie, and I have recently completed a three-month internship with VPR POP. I am a recent college graduate, and let me tell you, entering the professional world was a daunting prospect. From finding the right company to figuring out what path I wanted my career to take, I was a nervous wreck as graduation drew closer and closer. However, I feel confident in saying that I have been more fortunate than many recent college graduates. I say this because I found a company that seeks to excel as a business, while also providing hope and care to people in need.
I was a Spanish and Communications major, and I believe that the ability to share a compelling story is an extremely powerful thing. This is why I have enjoyed my role at VPR so much. Over the past three months, I have had the opportunity to interview our patient speakers, write articles for the VPR blog and social media pages, and interview our own VPR staff members to learn more about their specific experiences working in patient education. Through my work with VPR (and interacting with these amazing people), I have learned several lessons which I will carry with me.
Even during difficult times, people will go out of their way to help other people. Peer-to-peer mentorship in healthcare is an amazing concept, but it also seems intuitive. It just makes sense that healthcare professionals should give their patients this invaluable resource to accompany their treatment plan: the empathy and perspective of another patient who has been able to successfully manage the same illness.
Upon learning more about the work VPR POP does, I was immediately struck by the importance of these programs. However, though it made sense, I also wondered if people managing the day-to-day ups and downs of a chronic illness would be willing to take on this extra responsibility of becoming a patient mentor. Even if they want to help, would people really be able to add this to their already full plate?
I need not have questioned the willingness of patients to serve as mentors and advocates for their peers. Through all of my conversations, I have been blown away by both the quality and dedication of our patient mentors. This reinforces my opinion that even when dealing with hardship, people want to share what they can to help others, whether that be their time, knowledge, or simply their ears to listen. People want to help other people. They don’t view this as an extra burden, but rather as something that adds joy and fullness to their own lives.
No matter what you do, having a great team will make your job so much more enjoyable. While most of my projects at VPR required me to write and work by myself, and while I love writing, I don’t think I would have been nearly as excited to come to work each day if I hadn’t enjoyed my co-workers. A positive atmosphere really makes all the difference. I could go to anyone in the office with questions, and I always felt supported whenever beginning a new project. Simply knowing that I had co-workers who wanted to help me learn made me want to be a better employee. The added bonus of having lunch buddies wasn’t bad, either.
Play to your strengths. While I was able to develop new skills and learn how to do things that were at first challenging for me, I was able to use my writing skills and create a niche for myself. By far my favorite part of my job was working on the VPR blog, and through discussing my desire and passion for writing with Vickie and Rachel, we were able to collaborate and come up with new ideas for stories. I learned that while I had a variety of tasks, I was able to show my own passion, and I feel this made me more valuable to VPR than if I would have been in a role that didn’t play to my strengths.
While I am excited for the opportunities that lie ahead, I know I will miss the work and the incredible people at VPR. I can’t help but feel immensely thankful for this experience. I have learned the value of patient education, but I have also learned the value of working with talented and passionate people. Thank you to VPR, and thank you to the incredible patient educators who share so much of themselves in order to inspire hope in others.