By Holly Farason
Senior Rachel Kellogg is not your typical nursing student. She came to TCU with aspirations of becoming a pediatric nurse, but found she could better assist others outside of a hospital setting.
“I started to think outside the box and I felt like there was a lot more I could do for people before they got to the hospital,” Kellogg said.
After her sophomore year in college, she got an internship working as a community health nurse at an Early Head Start school in Harlem, New York. She worked with preschool children who were living at or below the poverty level in the East Harlem ZIP code.
“A lot of these children come from immigrant families who most likely don’t have health insurance,” Kellogg said.
As an advocate of preventative care, Kellogg wanted to show this community what it means to take preventative measures when it comes to one’s health. She held a hand and hygiene seminar teaching the children how to wash their hands and prevent germs from spreading. She also held a nutrition seminar explaining the differences between proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Kellogg said this was a life-changing and eye-opening experience, and wondered what else she could do for communities like this.
Before her final semester at TCU, Kellogg wanted to do something meaningful and within her realm of interests before graduation.
She spent a summer in Washington D.C. interning with the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Kellogg worked in the Health Policy Office, which focuses on public health, emergency preparedness, immunizations, and global health. She, along with four interns were in charge of writing health briefs every morning. They compiled important stories from the day before, wrote a summary, and then forwarded the briefs to their health team to review.
Kellogg said that the most interesting part of her internship was being in WashingtonD.C. while the health care debate was going on.
“Outside my building, there were protests going on every day,” Kellogg said. “It was cool to be in that environment and the energy was contagious from everything going on.”
As an intern, one of her duties was tracking changes to the health care bills.
“There were four bills that came out within the span of two weeks and we would have to go through the entire bills,” Kellogg said.
This was a challenging task, but a great opportunity to read bills that senators were putting out. In addition, Kellogg was put in charge of writing activity reports. These reports summarized important things that happened throughout the week and these would go directly to the senator.
She also attended briefings that covered topics like tuberculosis, maternal health, vaccinations, and emergency preparedness. She wrote memos on these topics to be forwarded to her team.
“I noticed that when I was sitting in on briefings or doing research for certain bills, my nursing background really helped because they were all health care related,” Kellogg said.
There was one briefing on hepatitis and drug use that stood out to Kellogg. Immediately after the briefing she emailed her Adult Nursing II professor, Diane Hawley, thanking her for her lecture on hepatitis.
“I remembered everything from this specific lecture and that’s all they were talking about in the briefing, and I was so excited because I knew what they were talking about,” Kellogg said.
She said being a nursing student at TCU helped with her internship because she understood the health needs of people and it wasn’t all about policy to her.
When she wasn’t attending briefings, Kellogg worked with the women’s health team. She conducted research and assisted in writing a sexual assault bill that one of the senators is planning to re-introduce in the fall.
One occasion that Kellogg enjoyed was the week leading up to the health care vote. That week was spent tracking the bill and tracking changes that had been made.
She and the other interns had been watching a lot of C-SPAN and were surprised when they saw one of their staffers arguing on the senate floor.
“We see one of our staffers who focuses on women’s health and mental health, on the floor yelling at the parliamentarian, Kellogg said. “We’re all going crazy wondering why she’s out there.”
Kellogg said it was great seeing someone she worked so closely with and respects, fighting for what she believes in and what she wanted to see in the bill.
“In that moment, I was like ‘that’s what I want to do someday,’” Kellogg said. “I want to be that person arguing on the Senate floor, standing up for what I believe in.”
A majority of her summer was spent networking and connecting with people in the policy world. She worked closely with senior policy advisors and met people who work for think tanks and research institutes.
She said her internship was an incredible experience and has opened up her eyes to a world of health policy and she has not turned back since. Kellogg’s goal after graduation is to work in public health policy, doing research in some shape or form. She has looked into think tanks that do research in global health policy with the possibility of becoming a research assistant. The Office of Global Affairs and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion have peaked her interest.
When asked where she sees herself in five years, she is still unsure, but knows she has found her niche in health care.
“I have a strong voice as someone who will be a nurse in the policy world,” Kellogg said.
“You’re dealing with policy-makers who have studied political science or law. They’re qualified and smart but they’ve never worked in a hospital.”
Kellogg says she has a unique perspective going into policy because not many people have that background.
“I don’t think we, as nurses, realize how much power we have, so I think I have a really great platform to work from,” Kellogg said. “I just can’t wait to get back to D.C.”