CUH Senior Appreciates Valuable Internship Experience in Hospital During Covid


Lizette Nolasco

Senior Alina Coller, a biochemistry major who wants to be a doctor, has been interning at Adventist Health Castle since January.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many are wary of going into hospitals to risk exposure to Covid-19.

However, Alina Coller, a senior biochemistry major at Chaminade, is happy to be interning at Adventist Health Castle, a hospital in Kailua because “… it’s much different from being in a classroom,” she said.

Coller’s internship, where she assists nurses and other professionals in their daily tasks, is part of the COPE Health Scholars program. This program helps students to get experience working in multiple areas of a hospital. Chaminade’s director of Undergraduate Research and Pre-Professional Programs, Dr. Amber Noguchi, recommended the program to Coller.

“I think for any pre-health student that wants to go into a health care field, getting this clinical experience is really important,” Noguchi said. “The fact that right now we are currently in the Covid pandemic, I think it’s even more so important, or equally or more so important to get that clinical experience.”

The internship, which started in January, requires 280 hours of work. Coller, who hopes to one day be a doctor, has already made her requirement but is staying longer to gain more experience. Through her internship, she helps with feeding and bathing patients as well as surgery observations. She also noticed that patients often call her to talk since they had limited visitors due to the pandemic. Patients have opened up to her about their struggles with cancer, language barriers, dementia and the importance of living life to the fullest even when things are dark.

“It’s the kind of work you’re expected to be doing but at the same time nothing really prepares you for the things you hear from people themselves,” Coller said.

Although interns at the hospital are not allowed near the Covid-19 ward, Coller saw firsthand the challenges the pandemic has on other parts of the hospital. During the beginning of her internship, there was a Covid-19 ward that was designated in a small section of the hospital; but as cases rose with the Delta variant, it has since expanded to the entire floor. Coller is working in the intensive care unit and recalled that the expansion of the Covid-19 ward resulted in ICU nurses being transferred into the ward. Along with a staff shortage, there is also a shortage of equipment that the hospital is facing.

“I hope that people sort of be careful because today, in fact, they gave the last ventilator to a patient,” Coller said in an interview on Sept. 1. “And I asked, ‘oh, so does that mean the ICU is out?’ And they said ‘No, the whole hospital.’ So please be careful.”

Although the pandemic is affecting all health care workers, it has also inspired some interest in the field. Since the pandemic started, Noguchi said she received updates from national organizations that there is an uptake in medical school applications across the country. She also noticed that more students at Chaminade are becoming interested in pursuing health care career paths and opportunities.

“They’re also making a difference in the community,” Noguchi said. “Helping out where it’s needed and obviously now during our Delta strain, you know, the hospitals are so overrun and really stretched thin, and so I think that students, pre-health students, pre-nursing students, can kind of get involved. It’s like a win-win situation.”

Coller is appreciative of the experience of interning at Adventist Health Castle and highly recommends the program. She attributes her recommendation to the patients she’s aided, the experiences not commonly found in a classroom, and the opportunity of being able to help health care workers during a time of need.

Noguchi and her office created a monthly newsletter to keep students updated on upcoming events for those interested in interning or volunteering. The newsletter also provides information on applying for internships, guest speakers, virtual and in-person opportunities, and scholarships for anyone interested in health care.

There is an upcoming COPE Health Scholars program informational session on Friday in Henry Hall Room 227 from 12:30 p.m to 1:20 p.m. The meeting is also available via Zoom (click to join here).

To learn more or subscribe to the newsletter, email the Undergraduate Research and Pre-Professional Programs at [email protected].