Clinical Internships: The Benefits of Mentoring a Student Therapist

Our country’s health care industry is dependent on an increasing workforce. Health sector employment is projected to grow from over 14 million jobs in 2010 to nearly 18.3 million jobs in 2020, an increase of 30%. This compares to only 13% growth for jobs in all other employment sectors. Students of allied health professions provide a critical source of new health care employees. A successful clinical internship program can expedite the learning process for students becoming professional practitioners..

The goal of a clinical internship program is to provide students with an excellent learning experience while leveraging the clinical focus and resources of a company. At Infinity Rehab, we strive to offer as many clinical internships as possible to students seeking opportunities to work with older adults.

Over the past three years, Infinity has placed over 300 students in clinical rotations across three rehab disciplines in seven states. This commitment requires a significant investment of time and resources to coordinate and provide the supervision of these students. Clinicians practicing in the field must commit extensive time and attention to give students a fulfilling experience during a clinical rotation. Being involved in a student intern program sounds like a great idea, but is it worth the energy?

“Will you take a student?”

What a loaded question. For many seasoned therapists, those words invoke a first reaction of stress, self-doubt and maybe even personal insecurity. For a few, excitement and intrigue may come to mind.  Either way, it feels like added work. And added work is never good if it’s not worth the sacrifice.

Consider what the question implies:

  • It is a one-way road.  The question suggests a power imbalance. “I, Experienced Clinician, give to you, Young Novice, my knowledge. Now go be wise.”
  • It is a burden.  To some degree, there is an imposition on your day as a therapist.
  • It is your duty.  This is a commitment that you owe someone else. You were a student once – now it’s your turn.

The science of decision making says you are a more effective person when you can make a choice rather than be forced into a decision. A favorite practice of mine is to “reframe” a situation when I face a significant decision that lacks a clear benefit.

Reframing is a great tool and helps you be a stronger professional. The facts stay the same; it’s the view that changes. No person ever gets things exactly as they want. Successful people make the circumstances they are dealt work for them. We help our patients do this all day – “This hard work gets you back home” – but health care professionals are often unpracticed at reframing our own challenges.

In my last blog post, we discussed what it means to be a “professional” in today’s health care environment. If we reframe the idea of mentoring students, will a clearer view emerge?

Therapist Mentorship

Today’s professional is open, appealing, collaborative, and humble. It is an attractive worldview if you aspire to be a greater version of yourself. Mentoring students is a natural fit for professional growth.

The perspective of a professional: Mentoring a student is a win-win deal.

Students bring energy, new knowledge, and fresh perspective to the field – sometimes from their own university research experience. Time spent orienting and training students is not always a sunk cost either; reviewing the basics is often a needed refresher for a professional. And possibly most exciting, professional networks begin to expand quickly – among companies, universities and clinicians alike.

Infinity Rehab is committed to mentoring and teaching future professionals. Our business is stronger because of it, and our industry depends on it. Thank you, current professionals, for considering how students fit into your own professional growth. Our health care industry depends on you.

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Derek FenwDerekF-Infinity_Rehabick, PT, MBA, GCS is a physical therapist and board-certified geriatric clinical specialist.  He develops leaders in healthcare as the Director of Professional Development at Infinity Rehab.  Find him on LinkedIn and on Twitter @DerekFenwickPT.