• Mairin Hogan

Pulse: Providing Hands-On Experience for Health Students

Written by: Mairin Hogan, Clinical Vision Science student, and intern with Electric Puppets

Last summer, like many undergraduate and graduate students nearing the end of their degree, I found myself in ‘resume limbo’. My resume had an adequate amount of the necessities; some volunteer experiences, a few customer service roles, with several research opportunities sprinkled between. However, a glaring hole remained in my background: a lack of hands-on experience in my field of interest.

Currently, I am in my final year of the Clinical Vision Sciences at Dalhousie University, where my future career will involve a role as an orthoptic clinician. As such, it was essential that my resume highlighted unique employment opportunities that complimented my clinical work, but were outside of my every-day clinical research, thereby diversifying my resume while making me a competitive applicant to employers in the future. The Start-Up Experience Program through Pulse, the Health Innovation Sandbox at Dalhousie University, was the perfect means of gaining technical, hands-on skills while bolstering my resume. I was welcomed as a paid intern with the Program and paired with a local start-up company whose mission correlated with my interests.

In January 2021, I began working with Electric Puppets, a software company interested in developing innovative, gold-standard technologies to be utilized in medical assessment and research. Initial prototypes have been aimed at improving patient experience and clinician efficiency in relation to vison assessment. Such technologies directly relate to my day-to-day clinical practice. This experience offered invaluable experience that I could translate into my betterment as a clinician; not only could I observe the standardisation of tools/tests I use every day in clinic, but I had a hand in developing revolutionary medical assessment tools that could one day be the gold standard in my field. Consequentially, I have an enhanced grasp on the vision assessment technologies I utilize every day.

Within this role, I gained key skills that I consider to be critical to my development as a clinician as well as health-care researcher. As an employee with Electric Puppets, I was treated as an integral team member, and therefore was able to contribute to the group environment as well as perform independent work. I was included as an equal in all team meetings and events, thereby fostering confidence in my contributions, communication and problem-solving skills as well as collaboration experience. Specifically, my independent tasks required the development of time management skills, which will undoubtedly improve my professional practice. My position with Electric Puppets also facilitated my learning of several hard skills, which included experience in grant writing, working with review ethics boards, developing research protocols, as well as operating telehealth devices. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work with revolutionary virtual reality prototypes during this experience. Thus, I not only got a glimpse at the future of health care but was able to contribute to the development of such devices.

My internship with Electric Puppets, through the Start-Up Experience Program with the Pulse Health Innovation Sandbox, was undoubtedly one of my most influential as well as beneficial experiences of my university career. Throughout this experience, I was able to develop practical and technical abilities, as well as interpersonal skills. This opportunity enabled my participation in my field of interest, but outside my every-day clinical work, therefore facilitating an invaluable outside perspective that I can apply to my future clinical practice. This opportunity has ignited an interest and a newfound appreciation of the contributions of the health-entrepreneurship field. Following this experience, my future – once rooted in clinic and research work – now looks a little bit different; the once glaring hole in my resume has now become source of potential and interest, as I look forward to becoming involved in more health-entrepreneurship opportunities in the years to come.

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