216465 Do they truly matter? Assessing the value of internships in developing health educator competence

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM

Susan M. Radius, PhD, MCHES , Professor, Health Science Department, Towson University, Towson, MD
Theresa K. Jackson, PhD, MPH , Department of Health Science, Towson University, Towson, MD
Entry level health educators' effectiveness stems, in part, from their academic readiness. In many preparation programs, these newly minted professionals' ability to function is enhanced by completion of community-based internships. Such placements enable students to acknowledge the relevance of their academic preparation and help them better understand their personal preparedness for and preferences in the field. Internships also provide valuable links between preparation programs and our practitioner colleagues. As a profession, we support internships as effective vehicles for students' personal and professional growth. But we have few data that speak to the question: do internships work? This presentation examines a cohort of >75 interns and their community-based supervisors (N=65) to determine ways in which a community-based internship impacts students' personal and professional development. Data include reflections from both supervisors and students regarding the perceived importance of and ability to fulfill National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) competencies through an internship experience. Also examined are personal qualities (e.g., students' self-confidence, perceived competence, maturation) as they are modulated by their internship. Comparisons of student and supervisor perspectives, before and after the internship experience, highlight the need for clear communication and shared expectations with both students and our community colleagues. Although all practitioners may not appreciate distinctions among NCHEC competencies, their real-world perspective and willingness to mentor students make internship an important adjunct to undergraduate health educator competence. The need for continued surveillance of internships, and for ways to improve internships' ability to impact health educator effectiveness, merit the profession's continued attention.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss linkages between NCHEC competencies and internships as a component in undergraduate preparation of health educators. 2. Compare student and practitioner perspectives on internship contributions to health educator competence. 3. Distinguish professional and personal impacts of internships as an element in health educatorsí undergraduate preparation.

Keywords: Health Education, Professional Preparation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have supervised and coordinated health education preparation/internship programs for >25 years, and actively engaged in undergraduate professional preparation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.