The Value of a Good Internship Program

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Linda Brown
The Value of a Good Internship Program
What’s On Your Mind?: 

If your office is like mine, there is a steady interest from local college students in completing internship and/or other volunteer hours within the Department. With Edison being close to several schools with growing Public Health programs, the demand far outweighs the available positions we can provide. As a result, a thriving, competitive internship program has been started here at the Edison Department of Health.

I do believe interns can at times get a bad reputation, as they can take more time out of your day to get them acclimated and involved in the necessary projects and are usually only with your department for a few months. However, I challenge you to plan for interns and utilize them to your advantage! Even if you have had a bad experience with an intern in the past, try again! You have probably had to do an internship in the past and having a good experience can lead to a great mentor and possibly change your future career path.

OUTCOME/ BENEFIT: Over the last 3 years, our program has grown and been strengthened due to better planning and collaboration throughout the department. On average, this program has equaled an individual working 3/4 time for FREE throughout the year.

STEP 1 Departmental 'wish list' a.k.a.Need Assessment: At least 2-3 times a year, a needs assessment is done within the Department to determine the need for interns within our Divisions and on specific program areas. This assessment allows up to have a running “wish list” of potential intern programs.

STEP 2 Be selective and have a standard interview process: If you currently take on interns or are thinking of in the future, I highly recommend having all potential candidates come in for an interview. This process can ensure you will get a high quality student and will also allow the student a chance to practice their interviewing skills. Use this opportunity to discuss some of your “wish list” items and determine if there is a common interest area. I firmly believe you should only bring on an intern if you believe YOU can benefit as much from their time as they will.

STEP 3 Formalize the agreement: Once we offer a position, we ask all interns to complete the attached agreement, which is a supplement to the school contract that is generally required. Feel free to use this and/or modify as needed for your own program.

LASTING RESULTS: Below are just a few ideas of great projects that we have had as a result of the internship program. Many of these projects were started by one intern and continued or expanded by another intern in the future. Each intern we bring on has a primary project focus but generally gets involved in many other areas as needed. I’m happy to expand on any that you may be curious about.

- Childcare 101 Program
- H1N1 Satisfaction Survey
- Evaluation of Parental Beliefs about Childhood Vaccinations (Childcare Settings)
- Edison Farmer’s Market Revitalization
- Vaccinations and Autism Project
- Health Center Policy Manual
- Food Handlers Course Evaluation
- Evaluation of the Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies (BABES) Program
- Review of Shelter Management Policies

STEP 4 Cultivate the future of public health by creating good internship programs- foster the public health workforce by offering these students the experience to do substantial work at a local health department!

Lisa Gulla
Worth the Effort

The internship program as Linda describes it has been extremely beneficial and was easily modified to my new Department. The most important factor that Linda did not mention, is that you must have dedicated staff that are willing to take the intern supervision on and if you will be allowing Masters level fieldwork candidates, you must have at least one person that is CITI certified to comply with IRB requirements. I encourage everyone to seriously consider utilizing the interns and agree with Linda that it is definitely a win-win situation.