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Natalie Chavavrria's Internship at Palomar Hospital, Volunteer Work with Refugee Health Alliance

Natalie is a fourth year, Human Biology major with a minor in Global Health. She is a pre-medical student who who works with the Nizet group at a laboratory on campus. Her laboratory focus is on infectious diseases, specifically antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. Aside from the time she spends working and studying, she loves to be active and enjoys running, swimming, and spending time with friends.


Pathmaker Internship Program

For approximately one year she has worked as an intern at the Palomar Hospital. Natalie earned her position through the hospital's Pathmaker Internship Program, having received training to participate in basic patient care tasks such as bathing, changing and feeding patients as they rotate among the different departments within the district. She works as an emergency department medical scribe for the hospital.


As a Pathmaker Intern, Natalie served in the Med/Surg telemetry, GPU, ICU and (her personal favorite) the emergency department. During a typical shift at the Med/Surg department, she would first sign in at the nurse's station, then meet with the nurse who was stationed in the area with patients that require high surveillance to ask if there was anything she could do to help for the day. This would usually consist of taking patient vitals, changing patients, ambulating patients to the restroom, bathing patients, helping patients eat, and refilling PPE.


For Natalie, one challenging thing about working at the hospital was learning how to interact with the staff and patients. During her duration of work as a Pathmaker Intern, it took some time to understand the flow of the hospital and how things worked.

Initially, I was very lost and it was difficult for me to find my place working alongside the staff. However, the more shifts I served, the more I got accustomed to how things were run and where I could be the best help. Eventually, the staff knew me and trusted me with larger tasks.

During her time with Palomar Pathmaker Internship, Natalie gained a variety of positive experiences. Most notably, she was able to learn basic clinical and patient-handling skills, impacting how she initially viewed patient care. In the scant amount of downtime she had while serving at the GPU, Natalie would also occupy herself by making small, colorful nametags for the patients to place outside of their door.

I got to interact and get-to-know the nursing staff which I really enjoyed as well. I also was able to obtain a position in the internship's leadership which allowed me to gain essential leadership and event planning skills.

Refugee Health Alliance

In addition to her work with the Palomar Hospital, Natalie has also spent approximately five Saturdays with the Refugee Health Alliance, and is planning to continue serving shifts with the group as she continues moving forward towards her premedical path.


Refugee Health Alliance is an organization that offers free-basic medical care to the refugee population in Tijuana, Mexico. As a volunteer, Natalie participated in giving triage to the patients, and assisting with the organization of medications that would be distributed to the patients.


During the Saturdays when Natalie would work with the Refugee Health Alliance, they would cross the border early, then meet at one of the various refugee houses in Tijuana where they would set up a station for triage, physician consultations, and pharmacy. She typically worked in the triage area, giving patient vitals and taking note of their chief complaint.


A challenge Natalie faced during her volunteer work was dealing with patients from a number of different backgrounds. She learned how to be conscious of the words she say, compounded by the fact that some of the refugees did not speak English, or even Spanish. Natalie learned how to affirm them by listening, and by expressing her care for the patients through body language.

As a volunteer with the Refugee Health Alliance organization, I got to aid marginalized communities and learn more about basic medical care. I also got to interact with an inspiring group of volunteers that motivated me with their selflessness. I learned a lot about many different cultures and sympathize with their situation. I still try to keep in touch with the friends I made in this program.

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