Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pre-internship tips

Writing these entries would be easier if I could have done it as I went along. But since we only started these blogs more than halfway through our internships, I’m not sure whether I should jump back and talk about the beginning of the internship, or just write about what’s going on now.

I think that I’ll do a middle ground: I’ll do some earlier events and some current events. So let’s start with earlier events. Pre-internship, even! Some tips before you begin your internship:

1 month before your internship: Email your supervisor and ask if there’s anything you need to prepare for before your internship. (If you don’t know your supervisor, contact the recruiter and find out who it will be. If it’s still unassigned, ask your recruiter for any preparation tips.)

2 weeks before your internship: Start learning about your industry. (Really, you should start far before 2 weeks, but let’s be serious – finals are coming up, you’re looking for housing, you have to write 20-page papers for Stats 3 with Professor Tsai, etc.) Familiarize yourself with what the healthcare industry is. A good resource is the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation site, which gives great short articles on the basics of healthcare. Another good site is the Healthcare Blog, which gives up-to-the-minute updates on healthcare news.

And if you’re going into the healthcare side of the insurance industry, know what insurance is. Know the difference between a PPO and an HMO – at least. This is what everyone says. But note – I knew the difference between the two, so I thought I would hit the ground running with my internship. Ha! From day 1, I immediately saw that the insurance industry is incredibly complex – amazingly so. If you can, learn more about the insurance industry so you can easily say things like “capitation” and “DMHC” without batting an eye.

1 week before your internship: Contact your supervisor again with a quick note that lets them know you’re excited to start working, and update them on any preparation you’ve done. Ask about the dress code.

So, this is what you should do in theory. But what actually happened with me?

Well, I did email my supervisor a week before my internship to see if I needed to do anything. But I was woefully lacking in the other aspects. But other than that, in hindsight, I should have spent more time learning about the insurance industry (as I was already pretty familiar with healthcare). That way, my first week wouldn’t have been spent trying to find glossaries for terms and abbreviations that I didn’t understand. Oh well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Description of my internship

One thing that commonly occurs with internships is that the internship job description does not match your actual internship. This was not the case for me -- my job description matched my actual internship. (This was most likely due to a combination of luck and also careful, well-thought-out planning by my supervisor.)

Before I delve into the details, let me give some context to how my internship fits into the larger picture. My internship is with Blue Shield of California (BSC), in the Network Management department. This department manages BSC's network of medical providers and groups statewide. I work on a project under the Network Management department, called the "Regional Strategy" (RS) program. RS is tasked with finding cost savings in the system. (I should put in a note here: I'm vastly simplifying this context for the sake of ease-of-reading, but if you're interested in more detail, let me know.)

An example of cost savings would be realizing that BSC members are using a hospital for a certain type of procedure. However, across the street is a free-standing, fully certified clinic, which can perform the same procedure for less money. By channeling members to go to the cheaper clinic instead of the more expensive hospital for the same service, BSC can realize that difference in costs as savings.

So, how do projects focusing on savings come about? Here's the general process: during the summer, RS teams begin examining opportunities in their region to save healthcare costs. Usually by the end of the summer, the feasible projects are finalized, and the teams typically begin the projects the following year.

And so this brings me to my internship. My main duty this summer is to document and support the RS program for 2010. This entails supporting the RS teams in brainstorming ideas for savings, running reports to see potential opportunities, documenting potential projects and issues, and managing timelines to ensure that teams meet their milestones.

It's been a great opportunity, and I'm glad on many levels that I got this position. In my future posts, I'll talk more about my daily life as an intern at BSC.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do you need healthcare experience to get a healthcare internship?

A common question I often heard during internship Q&A sessions was -- do you need healthcare experience to land a healthcare internship? My personal answer -- no, but it sure helps. If you do have healthcare experience, I feel that you have a leg up. The healthcare industry is amazingly complex (and to add the insurance aspect on top of it, as with Blue Shield -- whew!), so if you have hands-on experience with it, you are ahead of most. It is also often taken as tangible proof that you are interested in the industry.

But if you don't have healthcare experience, don't fret. Most people don't have healthcare experience, so if you don't have the background, it's not all lost. You may be missing that healthcare experience on your resume, but that doesn't mean that you can't prove that you're interested. Remember -- talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Prove to healthcare companies that you are interested in healthcare! Here are some ways to do so:

* Join a healthcare club (UC Davis has the BioBusiness club that you might find interesting)
* Volunteer at a nonprofit focused on health issues
* Specialize in public health for your MBA
* Take public health classes at UC Davis

Healthcare is a great industry to go into -- not only are you impacting the livelihood and health of people, but it's one of the few sectors that is anticipated to grow in the upcoming future (and may need leaders to usher in the proposed healthcare reform changes). It's an astoundingly complex and interesting field where you will have constant intellectual challenge.

So, in sum -- healthcare is a great field to look into. And don't worry if you don't have experience it it. When you are getting your MBA, employers often expect that you're looking to change careers, so you're actually in a good spot! What often tips the scales in your favor is showing enthusiasm -- regardless of whether you have healthcare experience or not, show employers that you're interested in healthcare!

Getting my internship

Hello! My name is Jackie, and I'm a 2nd-year MBA student at UC Davis, specializing in public health and strategic management. I'm excited to blog about my summer internship at Blue Shield of California, and hope that it may be helpful for anyone looking for a healthcare internship -- or even just an internship in general!

I'll start off by describing myself briefly and how I came about my internship at Blue Shield. First, about me -- before coming to UC Davis, I worked for the federal government in healthcare research. My job included the typical responsibilities you would expect for a research assistant: literature review and synthesis, assisting with grants and ethic review boards, and so forth. But my main duty was that of project manager. I coordinated the development and implementation of mental health projects for underserved populations. It was a fantastic learning experience, and it really solidified my interest in a healthcare career.

I decided that I wanted to stay in healthcare, but wanted to move towards the administration aspect of it. So as soon as I began orientation for b-school, I was focused on finding a summer internship that would allow me to explore the business side of the industry.

Part of what you learn about landing a good position is that it's part luck -- and I was no different. During one lunch event during orientation (before school even started!), a 2007 alum sat in a chair next to me; by the end of the lunch, he handed me his card and said that he'd be free if I ever wanted to learn more about Blue Shield. And thus, the ball began rolling for Blue Shield.

Five informational interviews with Blue Shield employees later, I knew I wanted to work at Blue Shield. I'll talk more about Blue Shield in later posts, but suffice to say for now, I knew that was the place for me. With my eyes set on the goal, I kept in touch throughout the year with the Blue Shield recruiter, scheduled informational interviews, and applied for an internship as soon as positions opened up. And by late March, I was accepted for a summer internship there!

In my upcoming posts, I'll talk more about my specific internship and Blue Shield. It's been a great experience, and I'm excited to talk more about it!