This spring, tens of thousands of college students will scramble to find an internship. From Wall Street to Main Street, students will settle in for a few months of learning and contributing, hoping to gain experience, a letter of recommendation and, in some cases, a job. While it is universally understood that internships are good for students, there is far less information out there that demonstrates the benefits of internship programs to employers, and long-term care is no different.
LTC communities can benefit from having an internship program in several ways, including finding qualified staff, raising resident morale, generating new ideas and marketing community relations—not to mention the benefits that the interns get. This article explores those benefits; click here to learn how to start your own senior care internship program.
1. FIND QUALIFIED STAFF, SAVE MONEY
At my employer, I started our assisted living internship program primarily for simplifying the hiring process. Since starting the program in mid-2011, we have gone on to hire two interns to full-time positions. While two may not sound like a large number, we are a business of fewer than 30 employees.
This has saved time and money that would’ve been spent advertising full-time positions and screening and interviewing applicants. Instead, former interns were hired, easing the burden of finding qualified staff and also generating goodwill with local colleges that the students attended.
2. RAISE RESIDENT MORALE
Residents in long-term care see many of the same faces on a day-in, day-out basis and live lives built around comfortable consistency. Seeing new faces enlivens the facility, however, giving residents the opportunity to meet new people and make friends.
Interns, even if they are temporary, provide a spark that the residents love. And they are worth having around if for no other reason than to improve the lives of your residents.
3. SMASH OLD PROCESSES WITH NEW IDEAS
Let’s face it: People get stuck in their ways and often are too involved with any process to see its operational weaknesses. Interns have the opportunity as outside observers to improve your facility’s processes by having just enough industry experience to be helpful in crafting new methods or troubleshooting existing problems.
Interns also possess the right amount of inexperience that allows them to ask the all important question of “Why?” which gives your facility the opportunity to reevaluate its long-standing procedures. Can you think of a process created by a long gone staff member that needs to be reworked? Interns are a catalyst of valuable change, and their insights should be not only accepted, but encouraged.
4. BUILD YOUR REFERRAL BUSINESS
There is a lot of competition in long-term care, and top-of-mind awareness is vital in staying successful and relevant. While a successful internship program in and of itself will not be a deciding factor for successful occupancy, it stands to reason that a greater number of people who have had a positive experience with your facility won’t hurt in attracting referrals.
The relationships built with partner colleges and interns can be invaluable. Even a single new resident earned as a result of these efforts can be considered a windfall.
5. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU
Aside from applying their skills acquired in the classroom upon actual residents, interns learn about several elements of healthcare delivery that they didn’t hear in school. Take, for instance, caring for residents with colostomy bags, or the proper dispersal and destruction of narcotic medications.
Most importantly, the interns who work directly with residents get invaluable experience honing their bedside manner. Aside from aiding in their general patient care skills, this helps young caregivers to prepare for the coming age wave.
CAN WE START AN INTERNSHIP PROGRAM?
As an assisted living facility, my employer has hosted three types of interns: office, caregiving and medical assisting—and each receives a different experience based upon the student’s respective program of study. Our office interns focus their time on day-to-day operations, while caregiving interns learn how to effectively provide resident care. The medical assisting interns get a broader scope of experience, learning skills that are necessary for providing care in addition to the skill set for a medication aide, which includes charting, dispensing medications and working with outside providers.