The Future of HME is Sitting in College Classrooms: Is an Intern Right for Your Business?

Posted on in Growth Strategies

By Collin Brecher, VGM Government Relations

Internships are extremely valuable to college students as a rite of passage to the professional world. The HME industry has an opportunity to use a surge of interns to gain young, energetic employees in order to ensure that HME continues to play a key role in the health care sector.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, there were about 20 million students who filled the classrooms of colleges and universities across the country. Just short of 3 million students will graduate with an associates or bachelor’s degree, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

One student, three internships

To aid you in the creation or maintenance of internship opportunities that are rewarding for both the student and your business, this millennial offers insight and advice from my intern experiences from my college career.

My internships have been varied: one of the world’s largest agriculture manufactures, a state representative, a health care organization that impacts thousands of small- and mid-sized businesses –  and a few small positions in between. I have had some great experiences with companies, and I have had some also rather poor experiences as well.

What hiring an intern can do for your business

There is a long list of benefits to hiring a responsible, respectful intern who is eager to learn to contribute to your business. Here are the four most important benefits an internship opportunity brings your business:

  • “I am an intern at XYZ Medical and I love it.” College students are asked two questions more than any other: “How is school going?” and “Are you working anywhere?” Offering a quality internship opportunity is a route for word-of-mouth business to come through the door due to the personal connection made to your business because of the college intern.
  • “I want to learn from you.” Young people applying for jobs may be hungrier to learn, engage and be more coachable due to their reduced time to form poor work habits. This brings a higher quality of service to your patients and customers.
  • “We’ve always done it that way.” Younger generations challenge the way things are done within an organization. Actively looking for new ideas from a fresh perspective can help you go beyond, “This is the way we have always done it.” If you are saying that sentence, you are likely placing a wall between your business and improving your process. New ideas from different perspectives is crucial to making that happen.
  • “There are not enough hours in the day.” Let’s face it, small-business owners spend more time at the office than they should. They have responsibilities that other professionals do not always have simply because they are responsible for keeping the doors open and the lights on. Small-business owners are in the driver’s seat of a race car, and there are always pit stops that need to be made. The pit stops are crucial to the success of the business, but you are always shooting to get back out on the race track. An intern may be a perfect option for you to get back out on the track, as long the work is meaningful and is making a difference to the company. By having an intern to help your business with tasks and projects, you can produce more results while minimizing downtime.

What hiring an intern should not be doing for your business

There must be benefits to both you and the intern for you to have a successful internship program. Here are my top three reasons that are good signs you should not hire an intern or change the way you are managing your internship positions.

  • “I need the cheap labor.” Hiring an intern is much more than just cheap labor – or worse, free labor. What you need to know is there are strict state and federal labor standards that must be followed in order for an intern to be unpaid. An intern should not be a replacement for a full-time employee simply for the cost savings. Businesses have budgets, and in small businesses those budgets can be pretty tight. But, these internship programs should be about developing talent and acquiring skills that can ensure that your business can be a springboard into a full-time position – with your company or elsewhere.
  • “Can I get a venti, mocha frap with half ice, triple shot, double blend, light whip cream?” Of course, part of being an intern is doing work and tasks that aren’t always the most glorious. The little things need to get done. But, there also must be meaningful work that is developing and challenging an intern to do more and gain skills. Having goals and expectations for having an intern is vital to the success and productivity of an intern, and it needs to be more than just being a coffee runner and staple pusher every day. Properly supervise an intern and you might be quite impressed with what they can do. There are always chances that mistakes get made, and those will happen. I have made my fair share, but a good intern, just like a good full-time employee, will acknowledge their mistakes and learn from them.
  • “I am looking to get something on my resume.” If you are in an interview with a prospective intern and you hear any variation of that sentence, be ready to thank them for their interest and look for another prospect. Search for a student who wants to learn, gain skills and develop into a young professional. Naturally, the purpose of an internship is for the intern to gain experience and find out what they are passionate about. In the long run, the intern who wants to learn will be much more productive than the one who is looking for their next job before the interview with you has even begun.

The home health industry can only survive if there are generations waiting for you to pass the torch. As the industry is evolving, providers must begin looking at ways to ensure that the industry will be there for generations to come. A well-planned internship program is a good start.