Internships and externships are a great way to “get your feet wet” in your new field
One of the benefits of getting medical assistant training at the Harris School of Business is the opportunity to be placed in an internship before graduation. An internship (sometimes called an externship) is an opportunity to work in a real job setting that is supervised. During your internship, you take on real-world job responsibilities, gain valuable work experience, and have the opportunity to meet and network with other professionals in the field of healthcare.
At the Harris School, our internships are not paid, but we ask students to treat them just like a paying job. Using your internship experience like a true job placement helps you to get the most authentic job experience possible. You can also include your internship on your resume to show that you have work experience in your new field.
What you do at your internship
So, just what happens in an internship? Most internships last several months, and are structured just like an actual job. As an intern, you will be expected to know your schedule, show up to work on time, take the job seriously, and complete all of your assigned responsibilities during your time spent there.
Your job responsibilities will depend on the organization where you work. Not all internships are the same. Some internships will involve shadowing a medical assistant, and learning all you can from observing. Other institutions will give you a few responsibilities of your own, such as showing patients to the exam room or preparing a room for an appointment. Other medical assistant interns get to help with administrative work. Some interns are assigned clinical responsibilities, such as taking a patient’s blood pressure or temperature.
Making the most of your internship
Keep in mind that since you are not an actual employee, the institution cannot give you the full range of responsibilities that medical assistants normally have. For this reason, it is important to observe as much as you can. Here are some tips to help you get more out of your internship:
- Always show up to work at least 5 to 10 minutes early. Don’t let traffic or bad weather be an excuse for being late. If there is an accident or some other unforeseeable problem, make sure you have a way to contact your supervisor to tell them you will be late.
- Learn as much as you can. Ask questions of the medical assistants who work there. Ask about any procedures you don’t understand. Ask about the rules and protocols that are expected.
- Be helpful. Ask if there are other areas where you can help or tasks that you can do.
- Follow instructions carefully. Your ability to follow directions may be evaluated during your internship.
- Act professionally and dress neatly. You are making your first impression in your new career field. Act and dress in a professional manner so the site supervisor knows that you are serious about your new career.
- Be friendly. Learn the names of the people you see most frequently, and greet them with a smile.
- Take pride in your internship site. Find out as much as you can about your internship site. Do an Internet search to learn how many patients they serve, the names of the key staff members and physicians, how long they have been in existence, and what their areas of expertise are.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are nervous and very quiet, people may not notice you at all. While you don’t want to be talking too much or distracting people from their work, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. When the timing seems right, don’t hesitate to talk to the other medical assistants, or to simply say something friendly and upbeat. These approaches help others to get to know you and trust you, which can lead to good job references.
Remember, the medical assistant internship is a very important experience that can help start off your new career on the right foot. If you are having any questions or concerns about your internship, you can simply ask for help. The internship coordinators and Career Services advisors at the Harris School are here to help make your career training experience a positive one.