The HSM internship is a crucial experience for students, giving them hands-on practice of the skills and knowledge they acquire in the program.

Completing an internship can be one of the most enlightening college experiences. Students may be exposed to possibilities they weren’t aware of before, or they may realize that they aren’t cut out for the job they thought they wanted. Or it might affirm their choice of career, which is what Hamdi Haji’s internship with Medica did for her.

When she started in the University of Minnesota Health Services Management (HSM) Bachelor’s Program, Hamdi, who is slated to graduate in fall 2021, was considering going into long-term care. But after completing some coursework and getting a broader perspective of the health services landscape, she became interested in the health insurance sector. “I wanted to work with a field that needs help, needs improving,” says Hamdi, who is dismayed by the fact that people spend so much money on health care yet are not necessarily getting outcomes that match that investment.

Read on to learn how Hamdi found her internship, what kind of support she got in the search process, and how it turned out.

An East African woman wearing a dark headscarf with a big beautiful smile looks directly at camera

How did you find your internship?

I got a lot of advice from faculty and fellow students, who said, “Apply for everything!” Even if it’s not the type of job you are going after, they said you will learn a lot and you may find something you didn’t know you’d love. So I kept an open mind.

I searched on Indeed and LinkedIn, which was where most of the ones I applied for were listed. I applied for many, many internships and did a few interviews, one of which was the internship with Medica.

What kind of support did you get from Health Services Management program staff?

The HSM program is designed to give us all the tools and skills to succeed not only after we have been hired, but also to help us prepare and search for the right position. 

There is a Career and Internship Services office that helped a lot when I had questions. They offer a resume workshop, where we created a professional resume. And there’s a skills course that you have to take as part of the curriculum [Career and Internship Skills in Health Services Management] that helped us understand how to network and how to use search tools like LinkedIn. 

What work did you do during your internship? 

I wanted to do something in communications or project management—and I got a little of both.

My main job was to redesign the website for internal use. Medica is a big company with 3,000 employees, which makes it hard to know where to go when you have a problem. They were already aware that mid-level managers needed better tech support and an efficient way to ask for it. So I was assigned to reorganize and redesign their website to make it easier to get the support they need.

Part of that project involved developing a ticketing system so that managers can ask questions that get routed to the right person. It was a feature that existed for other employees but not for managers, so they really liked that.

I also reorganized and updated manager orientation and training materials and developed an online employee handbook that made it easier to search for policies and procedures.

An East African woman wearing a dark headscarf and full-length dress leans against an oversized chair painted maroon with a picture of Goldy Gopher on the seat back

What is the best thing you learned from your internship experience?

If you’re going to be a leader, it’s important to have a growth mindset. You have to ask yourself, “How can I grow with this position?” and “Now that we’re done with this project, what’s next?” 

You also want to see your employees grow. While I was at Medica, I saw a few people get promoted, which I hadn’t ever thought about as being important. But that’s what gives people drive and helps them thrive in their work.

You are the recipient of the College of Continuing and Professional Studies Scholarship and the Joan T. Smith Scholarship. How did those contribute to your success in the program?

I’m the first person in my family to go to college. We are a low-income family, so the assistance really helped me with the basics: a computer and books—which are super expensive—things you don’t think about when you first start school. The scholarship money meant I could go through the program and not have to pause my coursework for lack of funds. 

How did the Health Services Management program prepare you to succeed in your internship?

In my internship, it was necessary to interact with people from many different departments to get my work done. We get a lot of practice doing that in the courses because they are team oriented, so we’re depending on other people to get our projects done. 

The classes also teach us to prioritize and to help each other. We learned to ask questions, like “What are we doing here and why?” And we learn about leadership and how to lead projects from start to finish. What we learn in the HSM program is essential.

Visit the Health Services Management and the HSM Internships websites for more information.

Hamdi Haji is a recipient of the College of Continuing and Professional Studies Scholarship and the Joan T. Smith Scholarship.