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Indiana INTERNnet celebrated internship excellence on February 26, 2019 at the 13th Annual IMPACT Awards Luncheon. Though the event is over, and the winners have been announced, we are continuing to celebrate the nominees’ successes.


These are their stories.


Courtney McDonald is currently a Senior at IUPUI and will be graduating May 2019 with a bachelor’s in social work. Courtney is currently interning at Meridian Health Services- Rushville Location and is a Behavioral Clinician (BC).


Indiana INTERNnet: What made you interested in pursuing a degree in Social Work?


Courtney McDonald:  I’m going to graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a certification in child abuse and neglect. I really didn’t plan to go to school for social work. My dream was always nursing. When I was 17, I decided I would become a Certified Nursing Assistant and work until graduation. I was 18 and working at a hospital when I met a man in his thirties and he had broken a needle off in his arm during his drug addiction. He was there for a week and no one had visited him, no one staff-wise was really giving him the time of day. I would often hear people making remarks and it was an unsettling feeling for me. I got to really know the individual as a person, not an addict. He confided in me that he would like to get help, his family did not know he was there because he was so ashamed of who he had become. I reached out to a Registered Nurse and told her that he said he wanted help. I asked if we could reach out to case management and see if we can get him into a rehab or inpatient facility to help him. She said, “He is an addict, they will tell you what you want to hear, he will be back next week for the same thing.” I was appalled at this and it was as if a switch went off, I knew I could be what another person could need. I could be a voice; I could be the one to help them reach their goals.


IIN: Describe your internship experience with Meridian Health Services. What was your favorite experience?


CM: My internship with Meridian Health Services has been wonderful. I come from a small community where mental health and drug addiction are so common but have such a large stigma still that they are not discussed and it’s hard to find people who are willing to help. Meridian Health Services takes that stigma and helps individuals with not only their mental or physical health but the whole person’s health. I have not met a person who was not kind or caring. I believe that Meridian is really a great place and has great ideas to help advance mental health stigma. My favorite part about Meridian Health is the pure control that you must teach your clients. For example, I have clients that I have created my own board games with or made it where we can do a volcano to teach them about their feelings when they are angry. You can be as creative as you need to be for your clients.


IIN: Describe this project you helped the team develop. Did you encounter any obstacles?


CM: I recently came up with sensory pathway designs to implement in some of our local schools to help children with mental illness. Many kids are punished for their behaviors or have trouble controlling them. For example, ADHD children often find it difficult to sit for 3-4 hours at a time. This allows those children to be able to take 5-10 minutes get some movement in and to help them concentrate and focus. This is not a “brand new” concept and has been utilized in other schools around the country, but it’s a big step for the region I work in and makes it exciting. We have encountered some obstacles such as not hearing back from people, and how to plan to make it last. We have been working on how to make the sensory pathway safe and long-lasting. It is still a work in progress but Sarah Lafary (BC) and I have worked very hard on making it possible. We are hoping to have our first one installed in the 2019-2020 school year for a lasting effect.


IIN: How many internships have you completed? Could you describe the benefits you’ve gained from these experiences?


CM: This is my first internship. I really do enjoy it and feel like more than just an “intern.” Meridian Health Services at Rushville has really opened up and welcomed me warmly. It’s almost as if I’m paid staff as well. It is refreshing to know that my value is encouraged, and I truly have learned so much about every single person who I work with. If I ever want to learn something new, they let me join them. I recently was able to learn about Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) and I had no clue what it was or how to use it. They taught me about it and didn’t think twice! They were encouraging and engaged on what is the best practice for the patients.


IIN: What are your future and career goals?


CM:  My career goals are to graduate in May; I really enjoy working with children and addictions in the field so ideally, I would love to have that population of clients. I do plan to go back for my master’s in social work in a year. I also plan to get my Licensed Addiction Counselling (LAC).


IIN: Has your nomination for IMPACT Awards impacted your life?


CM: Being nominated caught me by surprise; I was unaware that I was going to be nominated. It meant a lot to me and made me feel as if I truly am working for something great. When I was nominated, I found out that it wasn’t just one individual that thought I deserved it, but multiple individuals including my field instructor Angela Lowry. I come from a negative history and to see that I am overcoming all of that and exceeding really made me feel great.

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