Internships during COVID-19

Creativity, collaboration and grit

CPHHS internships in the time of COVID-19

Hands-on experiences such as internships are key to your learning. But what happens when much of the work force is working from home?

College internship coordinators quickly switched gears this spring to identify alternatives once it became clear traditional internships wouldn’t be possible.

“This situation demonstrated teamwork and how our college comes together to work through challenges,” says Karen Elliott, public health undergraduate internship coordinator. “I am incredibly impressed with how students have been able to adapt and make a difficult situation a tremendous learning experience.

Public health experiences survive, thrive

For some students, the situation allowed for unique opportunities. Undergraduate public health student Laura De la Torre, who was interning with Aslan Noakes, MPH ’15, at Empower Haiti Together on a hypertension program, transitioned her internship to become part of the TRACE-COVID-19 research study. Laura says she’s grateful for the opportunity and that as a result, she’s interested in earning a Master of Public Health.

“I am working with an amazing team with several years of experience in the health field, and I am learning how to manage a team on and off the field,” Laura says. “I have learned about different public health career paths that I might be interested in.”

Dietetic students “rock”

For the required dietetic internship, faculty converted more than 150 hours per intern into remote projects so that students could graduate on time. Students also completed various remote projects from preceptors across the Willamette Valley. 

“Our students rocked, honestly,” says Michelle Bump, director of the didactic program in dietetics. “In the end, we were able to get students through earlier than planned. And since dietitians are ‘essential workers,’ they will be able to take the RD exam in the near future and join the health care workforce this summer.”

High-touch goes high-tech for HDFS students

For CPHHS students, human interaction is critical, and this is particularly true for students in the human services option of the human development and family sciences (HDFS) program.

Internship Coordinator Tasha Galardi says that although some students found alternative placements, many students lost their internships as a result of the pandemic, and she found it challenging to identify remote tasks.

“Some students have been able to work with clients in creative ways, using technology, that provides a unique opportunity to practice their human service skills,” says Tasha. “I have been especially thankful for the site supervisors who have put in the effort to support students with remote internship opportunities, because that surely created more work for them.”

Kinesiology faculty find creative alternatives for connection

Similar to HDFS, kinesiology students studying pre-therapy and allied health engage in hands-on internships, often with health care providers such as physical and occupational therapists, nurses and others.  

In lieu of traditional clinical settings for student learning, internship coordinator Emily Norcross found an alternative. She and a handful of preceptors created a series of seminars for students to attend with local clinicians to provide at least some of the mentoring they would receive when they get to work face to face.  

One student is working remotely with his clinical preceptor on updating a policies and procedures handbook, and another is working with the TRACE-COVID-19 public health project to get hands-on learning in the field.  

“The students in my courses are rock stars and are immersing themselves in the opportunities that we have available,” Emily says. “They have smoothly transitioned to this current offering, and I’m excited to see how doing more independent learning and self-directed work will impact the direction they go in the future.”

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Contact the Office of Student Success

The College of Public Health and Human Sciences Office of Student Success is a place to connect with academic and peer advisors and professional faculty who can assist with internships, study abroad experiences, experiential learning and career development.