Clark Lindsey Director of Strategic Initiatives, Laura Edwards, was a junior at the University of Illinois in 2011 when she began seeking an internship in long-term care. She’d been working in the field since age 16 and coincidentally, Clark Lindsey, a single site life plan community with 300 residents and the same number of staff, was only 2 miles away. While the organization had had interns in the past, there wasn’t a formal program. Edwards began interning that fall and working at Clark Lindsey the following spring. While at the organization, she learned of friends struggling to find good internships in the field, and with the support of CEO Deb Reardanz, decided to create a formal program for Clark Lindsey.
Edwards asked supervisors and coworkers if they wanted extra assistance in their area, and by the following spring, the number of interns jumped from 1 to 4 to 8. Since 2011, Clark Lindsey has had 130 interns throughout its various departments, and the program has helped the organization fulfill its strategic priority to remain innovative.
Edwards decided to turn the typical program on its head and designed all internships around students’ needs and current interest. That way, interns could shadow team members in various departments and specialties – e.g., nursing, administration, marketing, finance, etc. – and have the opportunity to determine which area was most appealing.
To formalize the program and make it consistent across the organization, Edwards created a “Top 10 Internship Program Tips,” found here, which is a roadmap to a successful program. Most importantly, the list emphasizes the need for a dedicated program leader, in addition to speaking to a lawyer upfront to determine if interns should be paid or unpaid, or any other legal issues. The document also recommends deciding on the purpose of your program and where interns would be beneficial.
Factors for Success:
Most success factors also can be found in the “Top 10 Tips,” but a few are highlighted below:
- Recruit early and often
- Advertise internship programs via an easily accessible portion of your website
- Continually ensure that intern supervisors understand the goals of the program and which activities are appropriate for them
- Prepare orientation materials and make sure staff know about and can welcome the new interns
- Technology and data analytic skills possessed by interns not only support the community and push it forward - but prevent the need for expensive support costs
- Leaders without staff reports have the opportunity to learn supervisory and leadership skills
- Intern supervisors now remain longer in their positions
- While most interns move from Clark Lindsey’s central Illinois location to Chicago, 12 of them have been hired as staff
- The program is so popular that recruitment is no longer needed