Alana Berkman ’21 has always had an interest in women’s health. When she was younger, she often asked a family friend, who was also a midwife, many questions about her job. She also attended the birth of her stepsister’s child and, in high school, shadowed on the labor and delivery floor at Backus Hospital in Norwich.
Now Alana’s summer internship with Oh, Baby! Lactation Care in Glastonbury falls right in line with her interests. Completing the requirements for her health science degree, Alana is working 200 hours with Lori Atkins, RN, IBCLC, and loving every minute, as she learns by observation how to help breastfeeding moms successfully feed their babies.
““I shadow Lori, sit in on every appointment and watch everything she does. I am learning so much and, after I complete my internship, I plan on getting my IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) certification and applying for an accelerated BSN program in 2022. Typically, you have to be an RN to be an IBCLC, but my health science degree from Mitchell allows me to pursue it without being an RN because I already completed the health science classes with my major. Now I will only have to complete lactation education.”
Alana has already been able to draw some connections from Mitchell coursework and abilities.
“I took a scientific writing course and did 12 weeks of research on breastfeeding. A lot of what I learned has been coming up in the office lately, which is rewarding. I am also seeing how many Mitchell Abilities will tie into my future work as an IBCLC. Problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills are all used when coming up with interventions for the mom. Diversity and global perspectives – we have seen same-sex couples, people of color and moms with language barriers. Ethics are also important for maintaining HIPAA rules, privacy and modesty for the moms.”
Alana said consultation appointments last 90 minutes to two hours and involve weighing the baby, doing an oral assessment on the baby and assessing the mother for issues with milk production. After a detailed conversation with the mother, a plan is put into place with the goal of getting the baby fed.
“Every breastfeeding mom has said how challenging breastfeeding is. My favorite part is seeing the sheer happiness on these moms’ faces when they are able to feed their baby and the interventions were successful. Of course, seeing all of the newborns on a daily basis is another favorite part. It’s not work when you love and are very passionate about what you are doing.”
Because of volunteer and visitor restrictions during the pandemic, Alana had a difficult time finding an internship opportunity that aligned with her health science major.
“I was turned down by 15 places before being offered an internship with Oh, Baby!, where I am their first intern. I worked closely with Paul Dunn in Integrative Career Development to find this placement, and I’m so happy because this work is really what I want to be doing!”
A transfer student to Mitchell College, Alana’s biggest challenge was completing enough credits to be able to participate in the 2021 Commencement.
“I transferred to Mitchell in Fall 2020 and had 42 credits remaining to fulfill. It took extreme dedication, but I took a full course load in Fall 2020, Winter MiniMester, Spring 2021 and Spring MiniMester. Satisfying all of those requirements and planning a full-time course load that worked for me as a commuter, while working 25 hours a week at my job, was very challenging, but I did it. My advisor Cheri Ouimet said I was one of her hardest cases yet, but she was amazing and helped me be successful.”
Alana says that there are not many options for commuters to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Southeastern Connecticut, and Mitchell was the perfect fit.
“Mitchell is so welcoming and genuine, and my time there was very rewarding. I was just getting started and now it’s over. I want to go back so badly. I love this community so much!”