Sierra Wilcox and Kelsey Hericks

April 11, 2024
A photo of Kelsey Hericks and Sierra Wilcox.
Kelsey Hericks and Sierra Wilcox

Observership experience inspires the next generation of health care providers

When Sierra Wilcox and Kelsey Hericks were approached with an opportunity to sponsor a recent high school graduate and prospective college student in a first-of-its-kind observership program at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital emergency department, neither one of them hesitated.

“We’re in,” they said to Blake Wollenberg, emergency services liaison, who helped facilitate the program.

UCHealth offers an observership program that provides an opportunity for individuals to have an in-depth experience observing how employees in clinical roles do their jobs. One type of observership is for those who are seeking supervised clinical experiences as part of their preparation to apply to professional school.

“The program requires a sponsor that commits to provide mentorship to the student during their month-long observership,” Wollenberg said.

When approached to lead the high school student in an observership in the emergency department, Wollenberg immediately thought of Wilcox, a paramedic, and Hericks, an emergency medical technician, as potential sponsors. Wollenberg describes them as “constant professionals” with “even-keel demeanors.”

“Both are extremely intelligent, and both are amazing preceptors,” Wollenberg said of Wilcox and Hericks. “They have the attitude and the mentality that I wanted [the student] to learn from.”

Despite their workload at UCHealth and both being full-time students themselves, Wilcox and Hericks still volunteered their time to co-sponsor the student.

“I was passionate about it because if I would have done that, I could have known so much sooner that I wanted to go into the medical field,” Wilcox said. “Or I would have known this isn’t the field for me.”

Hericks echoed similar thoughts.

“If I had that in high school, I would have done that too,” Hericks said. “Getting the chance to observe… in an environment where you get experience and people are ready to teach you no matter what, that’s the best.”

Under their mentorship, the student observed them once a week for a month. Eager to learn and engage in patient interactions, the student shadowed them as they triaged patients, took blood pressures and started an IV.

“I think the most important thing was he (the student) was able to figure out or learn how to talk to patients. And just make connections and build that rapport,” Wilcox said.

As program sponsors, both Wilcox and Hericks enjoyed the experience.

“It was good. I really like teaching,” Wilcox said. “I felt like I was able to be a role model.”

“It was a great experience,” Hericks added. “I learn something new from [Wilcox] every day. She’s a really great educator.”

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About the author

Christine Freer joined UCHealth as a communications specialist in 2022. Prior to joining UCHealth, Freer served as the lead public information officer at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. She spent the last 11 years working in public health, program management, and health care marketing and communications. Freer earned a Bachelor of Arts in public health promotion from Purdue University and a Master of Public Health in social marketing from the University of South Florida. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband, Jim, and their German shepherd, Lincoln.