NAGS HEAD, N.C.—Anna Poutasse came into the Student Volunteer Program at The Outer Banks Hospital with one simple goal—to explore working in small hospital environment and learn as much about her field of study as she could during the 100 hours of service she had to complete during her internship. And over five weeks in June and July, this James Madison University student studying Dietetics, did just that and more. “This was my first actual experience working in a food services environment,” said Poutasse. “I was able to learn the inner workings of a kitchen and how it relates to dietetics,” she added.

Poutasse, who lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, aspires to become a Registered Dietitian and work in medical nutrition therapy once she graduates from college. During her internship, Poutasse did nutrition assessments with the guidance of the hospital’s Registered Dietitian, worked in the cafeteria on the tray line preparing meals and developed a nutritional handout as a guide for patient meals. “The biggest thing that I took away from this experience was learning how patient care is as interdisciplinary as it is. I was able to work with a diverse group of people at the hospital—through constant contact and participation on rounds with nurses, case managers and pharmacists—and they really took notice and the time to answer my questions which will be helpful to me in the future,” said Poutasse.

“Anna was a great asset to our department for the five weeks she was with us. She was always willing to jump in and help with whatever needed done. This experience will be a great asset to her in her future practice as a dietitian,” said Karla Croyle, the hospital’s Registered Dietitian. “We tried to provide her a broad experience that allowed her to see all the different aspects of a hospital food service operation,” added Croyle. “The experience of having a student volunteer also challenged me professionally while I developed learning projects and opportunities for her. It was great to see the excitement in her eyes about the field of dietetics and the future opportunities that exist for her.”

With a wry smile when asked what she will take away from the experience, Poutasse responded with, “Pretzels and mustard are a good snack.”

“The experience was a real eye opener in terms of where you can take dietetics as a career,” noted Poutasse. Dietetics can be taken in three different directions as a career—community dietetics, food service and medical nutrition therapy. “I especially got a taste of the latter two while I was at The Outer Banks Hospital. I had never worked in a kitchen before, and I was able to learn the connection and communication between the preparation of meals, and the dietitian on the floor,” said Poutasse. “They’re constantly intertwined. Diets are modified at every meal to meet patients’ health needs. Working with the hospital’s dietitian, I really felt as if I got a handle on whole process of a patient’s nutrition care, from the time they entered the hospital to when they left. I was able to watch certain things she monitored, and help her calculate nutritional needs. I definitely put what I have been learning in class to use.”

During the summer, the hospital’s Student Volunteer Program offers exciting opportunities for both high school and college students. Their Student Volunteer Program provides young adults an opportunity to explore healthcare careers, develop leadership skills and new abilities, build self-esteem and to become involved in the community. Participating students are offered the opportunity to work several different positions, gaining experience through direct patient contact or offering support in patient areas. Students that are considering a career in healthcare find their volunteer experience at The Outer Banks Hospital to be helpful in solidifying career choices, in addition to gaining work-related experience.

If you or your teenager is between the age of 15 to 21 and is interested in volunteering at our hospital, or if you are a college student looking for intern opportunities, please contact Kathy Tate, hospital Director of Food and Volunteer Services, for more information by calling 252.449.5675.