General information

Developing A True Career Pipeline From Student to Volunteer/Intern To Employee
Palomar Pomerado Health’s Clinical Career Extender Internship Program

Background

A leading healthcare internship in the San Diego region, Palomar Pomerado Health’s (PPH) goals are: (1) contribute to the health and well-being of its patients, (2) provide support to PPH staff and services, and (3) create a development and recruitment pipeline for future PPH healthcare professionals. PPH aims to identify both high school and college level students interested in learning and exploring more about health professions. It then provides a 15-month long unpaid internship opportunity to these students, exposing them to a variety of health professions.  The internship program partners with the human resources department at PPH to continue to identify areas where students, also known as Clinical Career Extenders (CCE), can use their experience as work experience. In this way PPH is able to develop a true career pipeline from student to volunteer/intern to employee.

Methods

Palomar Pomerado Health (PPH) outreaches to high schools, community colleges, both public (CSU and UC) and private institutions, as well as students who have either graduated or are not currently attending college.  Interviews are held quarterly and anyone seeking direct patient healthcare experience is encouraged to apply.  Candidates are evaluated on their attitude, behavior and time commitment. Applicants undergo an interview process and, if selected as interns, will receive a full orientation prior to the internship. The strategic pairing of high school interns with college interns allows for mentorship and sharing of experiences both in health care and in higher education. Interns generally begin in a medical/surgical nursing department and then transition to more specialized units of care, such as the emergency department or the intensive care unit. Palomar Pomerado Health’s Clinical Career Extender Internship program is a subdivision of the human resources department, managed by Learning and Development staff and, in part, by a group of CCEs serving in a leadership capacity.

Key Partners

  • California State University
  • University of California
  • North County San Diego High Schools
  • Health and Science Pipeline Initiative (HASPI)

Outcomes

Since Palomar Pomerado Health launched its Clinical Career Extender (CCE) Internship program in 2009, it has interviewed 2300 candidates and has provided internship opportunities for over 1100 students. Through exposure to new health careers, students have been able to better identify more fitting pathways for themselves. Students are more confident in their career choices and are more capable of finding and pursuing next steps in their respective career pathways. A particular student began the internship firmly settled on medical school; however, upon the conclusion of the internship this student soon discovered an interest in respiratory therapy and is now attending respiratory therapy school.

Interns have more experience and are able to obtain more employment opportunities than their counterparts. 84 interns have joined the volunteer CCE Leadership Team to provide administrative and supervisory support to the program. 59 have become PPH employees working under 27 different titles in 23 different departments. 20 additional CCEs have been hired as Emergency Room Scribes. Employment opportunities include certified nursing assistant (CNA), lift coordinator, nurse (RN), patient care assistant, phlebotomist, radiology clerk, rehabilitation aide, and surgical technician among a few others. The CCE Internship program also acts as an interpreter pipeline. 25 CCE interns have been trained as Spanish/English Medical Interpreters.

Unexpected Challenges

One of the greatest challenges PPH’s Clinical Career Extender Internship program encountered was ensuring that the demographics of the interns reflected that of the communities being served. While the diversity of the interns spans various ethnic groups, including multi-ethnic categories, it did not reflect the population in the region.
In expanding the program, the CCE Internship program has encountered obstacles in scheduling, timekeeping, and space allocation. Furthermore, there is a need for more training personnel as well as leadership support, especially given that the program relies heavily on volunteers.

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