Okanagan internship program offers students experience in their own backyard

Recruitment and retention of staff is a big initiative across all of IH internship programs.

When Allison Verigin and Heather Gregory completed their fourth year in UBC’s dietetics degree program, they knew exactly where they wanted to apply for their one-year internship.

“Interior Health was the first choice for both of us,” says Heather, with Allison nodding in agreement.

Both Allison and Heather were born and raised in the small community of Castlegar, situated in the southeast corner of B.C. They also graduated together from Stanley Humphries Secondary School before heading to Vancouver to enter into the dietetics degree program.

“We both still have family in Castlegar and on top of that we both still really enjoy what the B.C. Interior has to offer in terms of skiing, biking and all sorts of outdoor recreating,” says Allison. “So, it was a really easy choice for us when we were asked where we wanted to apply for our internship.”

Interior Health (IH) partnered with the UBC Dietetics Faculty in 2007 to offer a complete internship program within the B.C. interior. The internship combines school work with hands-on clinical experience. It also pairs students with dietetic preceptors in different areas of practice and provides them with short-term placements at facilities throughout IH.

“We take two students here in Kelowna and two in Kamloops,” says Lisa Koski, Professional Practice Lead Dietitian and coordinator of the Dietetic Internship Program in Kelowna.

“It’s a really great program from start to finish,” says Lisa. “The education of health professionals adds value to the region as a whole and, more importantly, the clinicians working with the interns benefit from teaching and mentoring students: it’s a win-win!”

Lisa and her Kamloops counterpart, Dawn Benwell, say many dietetic interns are hired in the health authority where they complete their internship.

Recruitment and retention of staff is a big initiative across all of IH internship programs. One of last year’s dietetic internship students, Haeli Draper, is now working in Kelowna for IH. She was offered employment upon completion of her internship and Allison and Heather hope to follow in her footsteps.

“We’d both like to stay and work in the area,” says Allison. “I think I’d like to stay in Kelowna and gain some experience and then one day look at returning to the West Kootenays.”

Heather agrees. She too would like to one day consider returning to a smaller community, not necessarily Castlegar, but possibly somewhere in the Kootenay region. However, currently she wants to remain in Kelowna.

For now, the two classmates have another four months left in their internship and are looking forward to the opportunities and experiences that await.

“So far, we’ve done placements at many different sites across IH,” says Allison. “I was in Grand Forks for a week. It was nice to be so close to home and working in a professional capacity.”

Once their internships are complete, the two have one last challenge ahead. As a requirement, they must pass their Canadian Dietetic Registration Exam in B.C. to certify with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia.

That’s the final hurdle for the two of them, and then they’re both, hopefully, home-free.

—Interior Health’s communications department submitted this piece