As the school year kicked off, so did a unique internship in the valley.
Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Polson welcomed its fourth class of Polson High School students several weeks ago.
Shelley Quinn, executive assistant at the hospital and the student coordinator of the program, explained that students have a “pretty rigorous process” to go through when applying.
The program accepts high school juniors and seniors with a 3.0 grade point average.
Letters of recommendation and an interview process are how program coordinators decide on students that get accepted.
Quinn said that competition was close for this year’s selection.
This year’s internship class, which is gaining popularity according to Quinn and Tammy Kelley, a health and science/health occupations teacher at PHS, is the largest with 13 students.
The program came to fruition after a former director at the hospital brought the framework from his former employment in Washington.
Right from the starting day, which is orientation to the program, students are treated as professionals.
PRIOR TO their first day, students are “coached” on proper attire and professionalism by Kelley, she said.
The “smalltown flexibility” afforded by a fairly rural setting allows students to make up hours if they need to change their schedules, Quinn said.
Students are accountable for about an hour and a half a day of studies at the hospital.
The internship counts as two credits toward graduation, and students attend various rotations after about eight weeks of a classroom setting, Kelley explained.
Students gain one-on-one training in different areas of the medical field for two weeks per area.
There have to be as many rotations are there are students in the internship, Quinn said, so this year, there are 13 rotations.
Along the way, students can obtain certifications, such as for CPR and First Aid, and learn extensively about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which Quinn said consists of patient privacy laws and guidelines.
Privacy was a slight concern in the beginning months of the program, Quinn said, but so far they haven’t seen any instances of confidential information being shared by students.
“It’s such a small community, that you know so many people coming in. It would be real easy for our kids to say, ‘Hey, I saw your aunt come in last night,’” Polson School District Superintendent Rex Weltz said.
THE INTERNSHIP has been received positively by staff at St. Joe’s with staff welcoming students, Kelley said.
“I think at first (staff members) were wondering about having 13 students in their hospital for an hour and half. Every department has welcomed the students,” she noted, adding that employees enjoy teaching the youths their day-to-day tasks on their “down time.”
“Our staff likes it,” Quinn added, noting that staff members enjoy teaching the students because it helps them learn more at their occupations.
“You learn by teaching,” she said.
Kelley and Quinn said that students are sometimes invited or encouraged to go to the hospital by professionals on their own time, spending additional time in the emergency room or delivery area.
“They (students) get a really good relationship with the staff around here,” Quinn said.
Not all students who participate in the internship go into the medical field, Quinn and Kelley said.
Giving an example, Quinn said that sometimes people leave the internship with a completely different intent for their future.
“That’s fine. We helped them make that decision,” she said.
WELTZ SAID that given the chance to talk about the program, students would say the internship is “incredible” and a great opportunity for hands-on learning.
“We’re able to do something that’s not been done before, and give students” an opportunity to learn in ways they weren’t able to prior to the inception of the internship, he said.
“There’s not a classroom experience that measures to what this hospital’s provided,” Weltz added.