Maybe you're a high school student thinking about a career in healthcare. Or perhaps you're a college student enrolled in a two- or four-year healthcare degree program. Then consider applying for the Summer Health Care Intern Program.

Hands-On Experience

The program, which began in 2003, is supported by the Minnesota Department of Health and administered by a healthcare stakeholder group. In 2007, 128 Minnesota hospitals, medical clinics, nursing facilities, home health agencies, assisted-living residences and physicians participated in the program. They employed students for six to 12 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day for at least minimum wage.

Interns observe healthcare professionals at work and get hands-on experience in areas like radiology, occupational therapy, social services, pharmacy, nursing and respiratory therapy. Assignments vary. Students may work in only one department or rotate through different departments.

Working One-On-One

At HealthEast Care System, the program focuses on nursing. Last summer, HealthEast offered internships to 14 students who had completed one year of nursing course work. Many interns were in their early 20s, but others were older "nontraditional" college students.

During the 10-week program, interns are assigned to a unit at one of three HealthEast hospitals. Typical assignments include obstetrics, medical/surgical, oncology, orthopedics and pre- and post-operative care.

Interns develop critical-thinking and assessment skills, which are hard to teach in the classroom. "One of the best ways to learn these skills is to work one-on-one with experienced nurses," says Debra Sullivan, education and development specialist at HealthEast. "The experience interns get on the floor is amazing."

In addition to work on the unit, the internship includes observational experiences in other parts of the hospital. These can be tailored to the interests of the student. For example, an intern interested in surgery might observe a procedure in the OR.

Opening The Door

An internship can also open the door to an entry-level job. Sullivan says that HealthEast hires some interns to work as nursing assistants during their final year of nursing school. This allows them to gain on-the-job experience and develop a work history. And that can lead to a job offer once they've completed their nursing degree.

Interested In The Summer Intern Program?

  • Locate a participating facility by contacting human resources departments of healthcare employers in your area.
  • Complete an employment application.
  • Provide a letter of recommendation from a health occupations or science educator.
  • Interview with the employer for the internship position.
  • Learn more at


Nancy Giguere is a freelance writer from St. Paul who has written about healthcare since 1995.