Written by Amber Taufen, MA, MGMA assistant editor
High turnover in your medical practice can wreak havoc on your bottom line; recruiting, hiring and training quality staff is an expensive and time-consuming process, so it’s more important than ever to hire the right person for the job. You can place your practice ahead of the hiring curve by crafting a quality internship program — which will take some extra time and effort on your part to create, but the reward you will reap is saving time and money in the recruitment process.
In an exploratory paper submitted in partial fulfillment for his FACMPE credential, Craig J. Nesta, JD, MBA, MS, FACMPE, FACHE, FHFMA, called internship opportunities “a progressive recruitment strategy for administrative healthcare professionals.” He gave us some insight as to why an internship program can help your practice recruit effectively.
“One of the things I have the most passion for is creating undergraduate and graduate administrative internship programs, not to be confused with residency or clinical programs,” Nesta explains. “Because most colleges and universities that offer a healthcare management or masters of health require their students to take a certain number of internship hours in order to graduate, providing internships is critical to training the next level of healthcare leaders.
“It’s one of those things that once you get an internship rolling, word gets around, and you get a very high-quality applicant pool, year in and year out, due to word of mouth,” he adds. “So your recruitment expenses go down. The whole transition process is probably cut down by 80, 90 percent because they’re not only acclimated to the systems but also the political climate; they understand how the organization functions, which is critical.”
The investment your practice makes is in time — both in crafting the internship and working with the intern. First, decide what level of intern you’re looking to attract; high-school age interns will have different capabilities than a graduate student, so you’ll want to create an internship that accommodates your intern’s skill levels.
High school students can still be useful despite their limited abilities — you can have them help with filing and photocopying or ask them to take notes for you at meetings; some might even be up to answering phones and helping with some accounts processing.
College-level interns can be given more responsibilities, including reception and scheduling, checking patients in and out, and possibly even referrals. Interns from graduate schools can often tackle limited but higher-level projects, such as financial analysis, developing a physician compensation plan or establishing a pharmacy inventory system. All interns should have a preceptor or mentor who is responsible for managing them: orienting them to the practice, holding regular touch-base meetings, acting as a liaison between the practice and the school and other duties (including an internship exit interview).
Although these tips are specific to administrative positions, they can also apply to aspiring doctors, nurses, and non-physician providers. High school and undergraduate internships are one way students can try on a career for size and see whether their chosen field is really suited to their talents and personalities (and they might remember you fondly for giving them vital hands-on education when graduation rolls around). Plus, staffing your office with quality administrative-level workers will make the workplace more enticing for the elusive physicians you want to attract.
Read about administrative fellowships in “Rethinking leadership development in healthcare: Administrative fellowships provide healthcare professionals with operational experience” in the Spring 2012 edition of ACMPE Executive View.
Need more information or resources? Read “Six tips for a successful exit interview” on the MGMA In Practice Blog, and check out the education and certification resources on developing an internship in your practice.