“Internships” for health majors

Summer’s started and maybe you’re feeling a little bored? Perhaps your friends are working in their summer internships and you’re wondering how to spend the time you have. A majority of students entering college hope to complete an internship during their time in school. This is for many reasons–improved employment outlook, a chance to build their resume, and an opportunity to gain experience helping determine the career path they want to pursue after college. Interest in internships holds steady across students in the health sciences as well. However, oftentimes pre-health students run into problems finding internships because they may not carry that same title. “Interns” may refer to  a graduate student in health professional school with clinical responsibilities rather than an undergraduate level intern.

In addition to the challenge of finding an internship in the health sciences, you may be struggling since the summer has already begun and many of those opportunities are already filled. You can still have a productive summer, but it can be helpful to think outside of the box and move away from the title of “intern.” To do this, we should note the definition of an internship: “a form of experiential learning that takes place in a workplace environment. It allows a student to integrate academic learning with practical or “hands-on” experience, to develop or refine specific skills, or to explore a career interest.

With that definition in mind, we can broaden the way we think of experiences that have the same result as something holding the title “internship”. Health students might consider a variety of experiences including volunteering, shadowing, research, medical scribing, and a variety of opportunities in programs such as “alternative spring breaks” or medical missions trips. Other students might consider internships or jobs with organizations focused on providing holistic services to a specific population–perhaps an experience in a homeless shelter, working for a mental health hotline, working in a nursing home or assisted living facility, taking on a leadership role in a registered student organization, doing fundraising or community awareness for a health-related cause, etc. Any number of these activities are viewed as extremely valuable by health professional school admissions committees and meet the goals listed in the definition of an internship, including gaining practical, hands-on experience, developing skills, and exploring career interests. Your best bet for a productive remainder of your summer may be focusing on volunteering and shadowing opportunities. Take a look at the UW resources below, but also think outside the box. How can you identify a medical professional doing what you’re interested in? Reach out to them directly to ask for an informational interview and see if that could lead to a shadowing or volunteering opportunity. Once the summer has started, you need to be proactive about seeking out and creating your own opportunities for experience.

Some common groups and activities where many UW students gain experience are listed below:

These are just a handful of ideas. Think about where you would like to gain experience and the skills you want to develop. Start talking with your friends, family, pre-health adviser, or come to the Career & Internship Center to speak with a career counselor about what would be an appropriate experience to meet your goals!

By Shannon Merchant
Shannon Merchant Career Counselor Shannon Merchant