What’s your college student doing this summer? Is it meaningful work? Is it making a difference? Are they taking steps towards their career goals? Or having experiences that could cause them to rethink their major?
I’m happy to say that all of the above could be true for 250+ student interns we hired as “at the elbow” support for our inpatient electronic medical record implementation. And it is a win-win. As part of our MiChart activation team, we get much needed help from bright, enthusiastic, high energy undergrad and graduate students. They get real world experience in a health care setting: a med/surg nursing unit, labor and delivery, OR and PACU, an ICU, an adult or pediatric setting, or an outpatient department.
We had a very positive experience on a smaller scale last summer – 27 interns for an earlier MiChart go live. 4 of them were hired at UMHS after their internships. So we turned again to student interns for this implementation. But this time, on a much grander scale. After all, we had 14,000 users to train on the new system and they would all need support.
What’s the first step? Recruitment – you have to go to where they are. We had an aggressive effort by a small team focused on five universities in Michigan last fall and winter. That meant a lot of career fairs and interviewing. As a result, we hired 259 student interns including 12 leads. 9 of the leads are returning from last year – another win-win. The interns come from 17 different schools. They represent over 40 different majors including Nursing, Health Administration, Pre-Med, Psych, Computer Information Systems, RT, Nutrition, Education, Business, Telecommunications and others. We even have one high school student.
After recruitment, you have to onboard them, train them, schedule shifts and arrange transportation.
It has been a big group to onboard and train. We started with a two day orientation where they got the basics including their IDs and vests. Our experience is that your interns need to learn much more than the users. Make sure your user training team offers enough courses for them. If we did this again, we’d have dedicated training resources specifically for the student interns, to train them, to monitor their progress and to answer their ongoing questions. In the coming weeks, we will conduct in-service training for the interns to keep them current as we tweak the system post go live.
Scheduling the interns across all the shifts in so many departments is complicated. Early assignments and scheduling for the interns drives the specific training they will need. Students want to get to know where they will be working before the big go live. Some student interns have flexible hours, which makes scheduling easier, but many are juggling two summer jobs or classes.
And don’t forget transportation. This could make or break the program, depending on your situation. At the University of Michigan, we are fortunate to have an extensive shuttle system as well as public bus transportation to and from the medical campus.
The success of our intern program is not hard to measure. The manager responsible for the interns regularly hears “WE LOVE OUR STUDENTS” and “They are AWESOME” from the users. The students have smiles on their faces when I see them during rounding and in the halls.
Some want to talk with me about future opportunities and to get career advice. I always say yes, and look forward to those conversations. It’s a part of my commitment to developing the next generation of health IT leaders.
Watch for future posts for advice on developing an intern program. It’s not too early to make a plan for next summer!