Use Internships to Promote Healthcare Compliance Career Choices: Guidelines

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

In the January 2017 issue of Compliance Today, the monthly magazine of the Health Care Compliance Organization (HCCA), Natalie Bulger, Director of Compliance, Risk and Regulatory at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, writes of the importance of encouraging young professionals to pursue a career in healthcare compliance. Her article includes the following guidelines for successful compliance internship programs:

  • Establish compliance as a worthwhile field to pursue. This needs to be done with some care. Bulger offers that “Compliance is not always seen as a glamorous field to those just entering the world of healthcare.” It is important, she adds, “to make this intriguing and exciting for these students” and to promote the idea that “policy writing, research, and auditing [are] something they would want to be engaged in.”
  • Explain what compliance involves. According to Bulger, many of her prospective interns “were a little wary at first, seeing it was not the type of operations or management position they had expected." She suggests that one “empower the students to find a topic that interested them and still had a compliance twist to it.”
  • Demonstrate the breadth of compliance’s reach within any healthcare organization. Bulger makes a point to help interns understand “the importance of face-to-face time with everyone” [in a healthcare organization], and make certain they appreciate what is required “to talk about the hard messages, like audit findings and privacy breaches.”
  • Give interns visibility across the organization. Bulger advises “rotation through the clinical departments,” with opportunities for “observing therapies and rounds.”
  • Incorporate best practices for internships. Organizations should consider “offering flex time or adjustable schedules, encouraging team involvement, offering external or ‘outside the box’ training opportunities, and allowing the intern to highlight their project work in a leadership meeting or to a specialized committee.”

Bulger reminds leaders that interns will likely become our “auditors, our project managers, or our contract monitors.” Getting them involved and interested might be an important way “to avoid burn out later on.”

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Bulger, Natalie, “Cultivating Young Compliance Professionals,” Compliance Today, January 2017, (pp. 23-4).