Gregg Miller - 2013 Program Participant

Hospital Sanitas La Moraleja

Gregg’s internship at Hospital Sanitas La Moraleja. Photo by Gregg Miller

What was a typical day like in your internship in Madrid?

I would take a bus to Hospital Sanitas La Moraleja four days per week and would normally be there from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. Each day upon arriving, I would change into my hospital scrubs and head to my designated area. During the eight week period I was interning, I switched between pediatrics, pharmacy, urgent care, and obstetrics, so I was exposed to several different units and shadowed clinicians in each one.

In pediatrics, I would enter consulting rooms with the doctors and observe their interactions with the patients. I would then usually be offered the opportunity to interact with the patient myself by either listening to breathing or heart rhythms with a stethoscope, checking the back of patients’ throats with a tongue depressor, checking ear canals with an otoscope, or feeling the firmness of the abdominal cavity, for example.

In pharmacy, I would help distribute medications to their corresponding bins for different patients, sort and organize packages of medication, as well as learn about the uses of the most commonly distributed drugs.

In urgent care, I would be present in consulting rooms and interact with all sorts of patients with various infections, joint pain or bone injuries, and would also even enter the emergency room if there were ever patients having heart attacks or serious allergic reactions.

In obstetrics, I probably observed a total of 40 births, many of which included C-sections. Whenever I would be shadowing a doctor, I would always have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the diagnoses during any downtime or between patient visits.

During other periods of downtime, I sometimes would be invited to get coffee or snacks with doctors or nurses and would have plenty of chances to practice my Spanish and hold casual conversations with the doctors.

Intern in Madrid

Gregg and the one other American student at his internship.

What was the most memorable experience you had during your internship? 

I would have to say that my most memorable experience was when I was shadowing in obstetrics and observed a C-section for twins. I had no idea that the patient was giving birth to twins, so when the first infant was removed from her abdomen, I was astonished like I always was when watching C-sections. Then when a second infant was pulled from her abdomen, my jaw dropped. I was in disbelief that I had actually observed a C-section for twins. When the mother and the father were given their newborn children and began to cry from joy, I almost couldn’t fight my own tears because it was such a beautiful moment.

What was the hardest part of interning in another country where English isn’t the primary language?

I would definitely say that the most difficult part of interning at the hospital was the fact that I had to truly abandon my dependence on English and only speak and listen in Spanish. When I first started, it was very difficult to catch everything that the doctors would say to me because they spoke exceptionally fast and used vocabulary I was not too familiar with. After an extended period of time in this type of environment, however, I was able to actually think in Spanish rather than English and focus in on each and every word produced from everyone’s mouth. Instead of translating into English in my head, I would just understand the Spanish, as there wouldn’t be enough time to translate in my head during fast-paced conversations.

By the end of the program, I was able to understand just about any doctor’s conversations regardless of the speed of their speech. I had also greatly extended my range of vocabulary and my ability to respond in a rapid conversation.

What are the top five skills you have taken away from your internship experience?

I would have to say that the top five skills I have taken away from my experience are a much greater fluency in Spanish, better communication skills when professionally interacting with patients, a general ability to maneuver equipment during orthoscopic surgery, a knowledge of the sets of questions to ask patients when diagnosing, and an understanding of a C-section procedure.

What advice would you give to other BU students interested an internship during their undergrad program?

I would encourage other BU students to use their internship as an opportunity to decide whether or not they would enjoy that type of career after college. I chose to do an internship in a hospital because I was deciding whether or not I wanted to become a doctor one day. I knew that if I had experience in a clinical environment shadowing doctors, I would most definitely have a better idea of my decision outcome regarding my future career. This internship solidified my decision and made me certain that I wanted to take on the medical path. 

I would also encourage BU students to ask questions and speak as much as possible with their supervisors at their internship. Speaking up is the main way that supervisors will get to know their interns and understand what is confusing or what is clear. The people that students work with typically will not go out of their way to make sure the students are involved; it is up to the students to take a stand and ask questions in order to increase involvement. For example, I had once just asked if it would be possible for me to observe a surgery and the doctor I was with ensured me that it would be something I could do. If I hadn’t just asked myself, I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to observe a surgery outside of the unit I was in.   

Would you recommend your BU Madrid programs to others?

For the Madrid Internship Program, I was placed into an internship at a local hospital in Madrid where I was able to shadow doctors in pediatrics, obstetrics, pharmacy, and urgent care. I applied local anesthetics onto patients, listened to breathing and heart rhythms with stethoscopes, practiced orthoscopic surgery on a manikin, attended surgeries, and observed births and C-sections—all in Spanish. This eight-week experience was something I never could have done in the United States, and I was only able to do it by going abroad on the Madrid Internship Program.  

Do you have future plans to go back to Madrid? Do you plan to keep up with your Spanish?

There is honestly not a single day that passes without me wishing to be back in Madrid. Madrid was the best experience of my entire life and it is by far my favorite city in the world. I am thinking of returning next summer once I am out of school, and whenever I notice any upcoming vacations I have in my schedule, I always consider Madrid. I definitely plan to maintain my Spanish skills especially after how much my fluency improved after working in the hospital. I also hope to maintain my Spanish in order to speak fluently with my Spanish friends who I still keep in touch with.