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Becoming a Health Communication Specialist: From Dream to Reality

Written by Carrie Farrell, senior Communication major, graduating December 2015

For the past 4 years, I have dreamt of doing one thing: Becoming a Health Communication Specialist. Originally I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I enrolled in nursing school, and from my first day doing clinicals, I knew it was not for me. There was so much that needed improvement. What could I do, except leave. I soon discovered my love for Communication. During my second semester as a Communication Major at UC, one of my professors introduced me to health communication. I realized I could tie my two passions together: health care and communication. Now I could become an advocate for people in the medical setting and help people; just like the many neglected patients I saw during my clinical days.

Carrie Farrell, senior Communication major, on video shoot

After I transferred to the University of Cincinnati, I was excited to find that there were classes in health communication. Through my coursework, I decided I wanted to be a Health Communication Specialist. During the summer semester, I sought out an internship in the medical field. I started networking and asked every friend and family member if they knew of an internship that could help me get my foot in the door.

Something beyond my wildest dreams happened, a doctor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital said she would give me the opportunity to be the marketing and communication intern for her center. When I walked in to the interview, I was thinking they were going to tell me all the tasks I would be doing over the summer. To my surprise, the doctor asked me, “What do you want to work on this summer?” I was astonished. I chose my own projects!

Carrie and colleagues working on the video

Over the summer, I developed and worked on three video projects. The first overviewed the need for a comprehensive medical exam for adopted children. The second video helped parents understand the day-long clinic visit and what to expect during the appointment. The third video explains to families and members of the community the many partnerships our center has with different doctors within Children’s Hospital. Here is a link to the video about medical needs of adopted children –see what you think!

My favorite project came out of my observations at our center’s clinic at Children’s Hospital International Adoption Center. I started to see how parents had trouble retaining all the information and communication they were engaged in during the clinic. The medical team was being clear in their communication, yet something was missing. I worked with the primary doctor of our center to create a checklist sheet for the clinicians to give to families after their visit. It shows them a) who they saw, b) what exactly happened during the appointment, c) what they’re next action step was. Soon the sheet was used throughout the clinic. The primary doctor was so excited that she wants to use the form in her other clinic as well. I also worked on boosting the clinic’s online visibility by working with the web editors to tailor the website’s content. Through these efforts our clinic climbed to the top of a Google search for clinics in this medical specialty—our clinic went to being in the top three results.

Carrie finds a new friend

I have witnessed a real impact from my efforts in this clinic. All it took was a dream and someone to give me a chance. Now, as I near graduation with a degree in Communication, my internship will continue in a part-time position at Children’s Hospital, and I can finally say, “I am a Health Communication Specialist.”

This story was prepared with the support of Associate Professor Stephen Haas, who worked with Carrie in his Capstone Health Communication class.


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