A degree in Healthcare Administration can open your career path to an ever-growing industry that is bubbling for more top healthcare administrators. But not just anyone can become a healthcare administrator; formal training and a thorough knowledge of everything that can be required of a healthcare administrator is a must.
While any accredited healthcare administration program will equip you with introductory coursework knowledge, alongside whatever specialty you have chosen, some programs also require hands-on experience, usually in the form of an internship.
Here is the ultimate guide to healthcare administration internships, including why you need to get one, what you need to do to successfully get one, and what you’ll learn.
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The Importance of a Healthcare Administration Internship
If your program has a certain number of hands-on experience hours as a prerequisite to earning your degree, then the importance of an internship is insurmountable. But not all programs require internships to graduate, so why should you still care about fulfilling a healthcare administration internship?
The answer is simple: the experience is great for your resume. When you have completed your degree and you are looking to start your career in the health administration industry, you will find yourself battling with dozens if not hundreds of other applicants, no matter how high the demand is for more administrators.
These other candidates will have degrees and certifications proving that they are just as qualified as you.
So what can you do to set yourself apart? Clinical experience. Having a history of working in the healthcare industry will automatically place you on a higher tier than most of your candidates.
This immediately increases your chances of getting picked and will save you potentially months (if not years) of waiting to start your career. Even if your program doesn’t require an internship, it is for your best benefit to do whatever it takes to get one.
How to Get an Internship in Healthcare Administration
As someone with no previous experience interning with any healthcare or clinical institution, it can be difficult to figure out where to even begin. Aside from asking your professors and mentors for help, there are a number of things you can do to successfully land and jumpstart your first healthcare administration internship.
1) Make Connections Through Volunteering
Volunteering—it’s like an internship, but without the official documentation. The best way to find out about possible open internships is by volunteering.
Not only is it easy to look for volunteer opportunities (since most places could always use another set of hands), but they will also usually accept anyone who is of sound mind and body. After you start volunteering at your local clinic or even hospital, you can then start proving yourself to those around you.
Lend some extra help here and there; stay for an extra hour or two, or arrive earlier than expected. Do everything you can so that the leaders and administrators above you recognize you, even if you are several notches down the ladder from them.
One thing to keep in mind when doing your work is this: administrators and leaders in the healthcare industry recognize and reward eagerness and talent, at any level that it is being displayed.
Not only will they see your hard work and be thankful for it, but they will see themselves in you and understand that you have a genuine interest to be a part of the industry, and not just fill your hours or earn a paycheck.
Get yourself through the door by volunteering; make them remember your name and your face by volunteering well. The more references you make, the easier it will be to ask about an internship and earn it. Who knows—they might even give it to you before you ask.
2) Don’t Be Picky
Some students in healthcare administration have the problem of being too picky and choosy with what they want to do. They lock onto a certain specialty and think, “This is what I want my career to be focused on, therefore I shouldn’t do anything else.”
But here’s the truth when it comes to healthcare administration: regardless of your specialty, you will be required to be a Jack-of-all-trades.
No matter what you’re doing, experience is still experience, and it’s another item you can place on your resume.
Think about this: when you’re applying for your future job, an employer is going to look at your resume and see that you have many more skills than those around you, if you choose to take whatever volunteer or internship opportunity that you can get.
You will be the much better candidate, not only because you have more knowledge on a variety of practices, but also because you will be viewed as a more holistically educated individual who will be more adaptable in unique situations.
Some of the best internships out there are offered by institutions like the World Health Organization, Mayo Clinic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Children’s Hospital Network.
If you are given the opportunity to work for any of these places, don’t turn up your nose simply because it’s not what you studied for. You will have plenty of time to work in your chosen field. For now, you are still here to learn.
3) Use Everything You Have To Find Your Internship
If you really want an internship, then it’s time to prove it: use every outlet and channel you have to find one. Don’t be lazy—many students have the tendency to simply browse through the nearest board or forum for internships, and give up after thirty minutes if they haven’t found something they want.
Sure, you can land an internship this way, but is it effective? Nope.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even word of mouth—all of these are amazing places where you can find potential internships, or even just leads to potential internships.
Make connections in the healthcare industry with as many people as possible; follow forums, discussion hangouts, Internet threads where healthcare professionals are known to connect and keep your eyes open for that internship opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s really an issue of how much you want it. Are you willing to go the extra mile and spend hours every day searching online and in the real world; walking into clinics and offices and asking if any positions are available for volunteer or free work? If so, you should land an internship in no time.
Types of Internships for Healthcare Administration Students
Now that you understand how you can land an internship, here are five types of internships that you should be expecting. Remember: the more variety of internships you can write on your resume, the stronger your job prospects will become.
Pharmacies are usually one of the more difficult places to land an internship. Though pharmacists are in high demand, it can be nearly impossible to become an intern at one unless you have a background in pharmaceutical education.
However, if you successfully spend some time working at a pharmacy, your resume will immediately expand in value. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, pharmacies require very meticulous work. They compound and provide medications and require an exactness and focus to detail that many people do not have.
As a healthcare administration intern, your roles could involve promoting healthcare in your community, strategizing ways to improve efficiency amongst the staff, and creating relationships between the workers to maximize productivity.
Community Health Centers
As an intern at a community health center, your main responsibility would be spreading awareness of proper healthcare routines and teaching healthcare practices to the community. As a part of your community, you would understand the ideal methods towards reaching out to the community and helping them implement health-positive routines and techniques to be used at home.
Public policy-related internships would consist of programs at nonprofit establishments like The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World Health Organization.
Your administrative duties here would relate less with hands-on healthcare assistance and management, giving you instead an inside look at the ways healthcare policies are decided upon and voted into action.
You will understand the difficulties healthcare administrators face when dealing with lobbyists and politicians, working directly with researchers towards the unified goal of improving healthcare policies in your community.
Interning in the healthcare administration industry can oftentimes lead you towards working with healthcare consulting firms. These are firms that medical clinics and other healthcare institutions hire to help them maximize the balance between their patient care, staff efficiency, and profits.
Not only will you learn about the ways in which healthcare is managed and processed at a higher level, but you will view the healthcare industry from a bird’s eye view, deciding the best ways for the overall system to function.
And of course, as a healthcare administration intern, you would most likely at one point experience working directly in a medical facility. This can be anywhere from a large public hospital to a private clinic; both types would be helpful to your education.
You would pick up skills such as technology management, staff supervision, profit and finance accounting, and coordinating and optimizing patient care.
The Point of Your Internship: Looking Forward
No matter how passionate or enthusiastic you may be about working in the healthcare administration industry, you may eventually feel like you’ve fallen in a rut.
Working as an intern with minimum wage salary (or no salary at all) and performing the most menial tasks may dissuade you from pursuing a lifelong career in healthcare administration.
However, it’s important to stay motivated. Keep in mind that your internship isn’t representative of your career. It’s rather the end of your formal education and your first steps into a world that is much greater than what you currently know.
If healthcare administration is truly your dream career path, then take the time to appreciate the lessons you learn from your internship, because these are the foundations for how you will work and what you will accomplish for the rest of your life.