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Niagara Health co-op student a ‘comforting presence for patients’

Posted Dec 13th, 2023

Sarah Haist (front) is one of 13 co-op students currently completing placements at Niagara Health. Under the mentorship of BillieJo Whitty, Registered Orthopaedic Technologist (back), Haist spends her morning working alongside staff in Niagara Health's Fracture Clinic. 

Sarah Haist has learned the cardinal rule when it comes to working in Niagara Health’s Fracture Clinic - always eat breakfast in the morning.

The importance of this simple morning ritual became abundantly clear to the Welland Centennial Grade 12 student the first day she started at the clinic.

“From the moment you start your shift, you know you’re in for a busy day ahead,” says Haist. “That’s also what makes this experience so rewarding – every day is different and you never know what you’re going to encounter.”

Haist is one of 13 co-op students currently completing placements at Niagara Health.

Students in the program work Monday to Friday at one of our sites under the mentorship of experienced Niagara Health team members. The program provides high school students with practical experience and opportunities to witness real-life scenarios while contributing directly to patient care.

For Haist, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and make a difference in patients’ day is what inspired her to peruse a placement at the Fracture Clinic.

“A lot of patients who come to the clinic aren’t sure where to go or what to expect,” says Haist. “In my role, I help to make their experience as smooth as possible.”

While her classmates are at school, Haist’s mornings consist of sending patients for X-rays with appropriate paperwork, ensuring rooms are well-stocked and ushering patients to different departments at the Welland hospital.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Haist also assists Central Registration, where she welcomes patients and directs them to where they need to be.

“She really helps to run the show,” says BillieJo Whitty, Registered Orthopaedic Technologist in the Fracture Clinic.

“We were really impressed with how quickly Sarah caught onto the routine of the clinic,” she says. “She jumped in with both feet and we’re really grateful for her help.”

Staff members aren’t the only ones impressed with Sarah’s work ethic; patients, too, are grateful for her comforting presence.

“Patients love having her in the clinic. Her friendly face and eagerness to help really make a difference,” says Whitty.

As an orthopedic technologist, Whitty is responsible for ensuring the day-to-day success of the clinic. 

From inputting X-rays to casting and splinting, removing sutures and setting up injections, it’s certainly a role that requires constant attention to detail.

Thankfully, Haist was up for the challenge.

“It’s a busy place, but it’s been so rewarding,” she says. “I’ve had the opportunity to ask questions, learn from professionals and look behind the curtain to see how a hospital system works.”

As an aspiring future paramedic, Haist believes the skills she has learned from the clinic will benefit her in the future.

“Learning first-hand about different injuries and observing how they are treated is not something you see in a classroom,” she says.

Haist’s time spent in the clinic has not only enriched her technical skills but also helped her cultivate essential qualities such as empathy, resilience and effective communication -- all skills that she believes are essential to a future career in healthcare.

As Haist wraps up her first semester, she encourages more students to consider perusing a co-op placement at Niagara Health.

“If you are interested in a career in healthcare, this is a great opportunity to explore all the options available to you,” she says.

Co-op students at Niagara Health have the opportunity to apply to a number of departments across our sites including perioperative services (day surgery), occupational therapy, recreational therapy, physiotherapy, kidney care and more.

“For any incoming students, take the time to learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Niagara Health System