Summer Internship Experience
A summer internship in the Human Resources Department at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center not only helped Cierra Ihnen get the needed credits to graduate, it helped her land a full-time position in her chosen field.
Cierra, of Lennox, S.D., was heading into her last year at South Dakota State University, where she was working toward a major in sociology and human resources, and a minor in leadership management of non-profit organizations.
“I needed to obtain college credit for an internship, and learned of an available HR internship on the Avera McKennan website,” Cierra said.
She applied for and got the internship, and ended up earning 12 hours of credit for her summer work. “I was able to gain substantial knowledge and hands-on experience I would not have been able to get in the classroom,” she said.
Many internships amount to “busy work” to assist the regular staff. But Cierra said her internship in the Avera McKennan HR office was anything but that. In addition to learning from experienced job recruiters, “I actually was put into the role of an HR recruiter, so I could gain an inside understanding of the entire process. There’s no better training than that.”
Thanks to her successful internship, Cierra was offered a job with Avera McKennan as an HR assistant before she even graduated from college. She completed her degree online while earning a full-time salary.
“Everything I learned during my internship helped me transition very smoothly into my new position,” Cierra said. Working for a large regional health network that employs 6,000 people, Cierra is confident there will be opportunities for growth and advancement. “Avera is a great organization to be a part of and it’s nice that it’s a faith-based organization.”
Cierra said she would recommend an Avera internship to any student. Whether it’s paid or unpaid, an internship results in great dividends in terms of experience and opportunities. “It’s a good way to get your foot in the door. I’ll be able to take what I’ve learned with me, no matter what happens in the future.”
Graduate Student Experience
Graduate Student Finds Opportunity at Avera McKennan
As a graduate student with plenty of education but little experience, Lindy Hill made "cold calls" to hospitals, trying to land an internship that might lead to a full-time job opportunity. It was a calculated risk that paid long-term dividends for his career.
Lindy, a native of Brookings, S.D., graduated from the University of South Dakota at Vermillion in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in health administration. He immediately started graduate school, working toward an MBA with an emphasis in health administration. "As I was nearing the end of my graduate work, I realized I didn't have any experience to back up my degrees," Lindy said.
So he called hospitals in the area, hoping to find any type of internship in an administrative role. His ultimate hope was that an internship might turn into a job opportunity.
A call to Avera McKennan led to a foot in the door - an offer for an unpaid internship in clinic operations, starting in August 2006. Driving from Vermillion to Sioux Falls several days a week meant sacrificing personal time, gas money and the opportunity to earn money elsewhere. Yet the experience paid off in other ways.
The internship involved analyzing data and fee schedules, as well as important networking opportunities with Avera professionals. His next assignment was as part of Avera McKennan's clinic LEAN team, helping to redesign work to be more efficient and patient-centered at clinics within the Avera McKennan network.
While many internships end after a few months, Lindy kept working. In April 2007, less than a year after his internship began, Avera McKennan posted a new position for a Process Excellence Specialist on the LEAN team. Lindy applied and was hired.
Although this entry-level position didn't require a master's level education, Lindy had the right experience. He saw this job as the perfect chance to join Avera McKennan full-time and work toward future advancement.
That opportunity came soon. Lindy is now project manager for implementation of the Electronic Medical Record in Avera McKennan clinics. Lindy credits his internship for the position he's in today. "When it came time to interview for my current position, I knew everyone in the room and everyone knew me."
The internship helped Lindy establish expectations of what it's like to work in the "real world" and work hard toward advancement. "It really helped me grow and mature, and prepare myself to become a professional."
Through his internship, Lindy found Avera McKennan to be an organization he'd like to stay with long-term. "I have a lot of loyalty toward the people at Avera McKennan. They took a chance on me, and that meant a lot." He's also come to appreciate the Avera mission, sharing in the healing ministry of Jesus. "You realize how important that is and how it drives everything we do here."