A Perfect Partnership
New Methodist Internship Program Provides Experience, Employment
By Catherine Duncan
A new partnership between the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio and the Methodist Healthcare System is offering undergraduate students the opportunity to attain invaluable experience during a paid internship that culminates in employment as a registered nurse.
The Nursing Internship Program at Methodist Healthcare System was created in the fall of 2015 after Cynthia O’Neal, Ph.D., RN, associate dean for undergraduate studies, traveled to El Paso with Jamie Lingsch, M.S.N., RN-BC, vice president, clinical and professional education, for Methodist Healthcare System, and Annie Garcia, chief nursing officer of Methodist Texsan Hospital, to learn about an internship program there.
“We came back to San Antonio very enthused about implementing an internship program. Within a few months, the program was underway, and the first students were interviewed. The first nine undergraduate students were accepted to the program late that fall. They started the internship program in January 2016 and completed it in May when they graduated,” Dr. O’Neal said.
Celeste Castillo, B.S.N., RN, who was in the first internship class in January 2016 and graduated that May, said the experience was ideal for her. “I knew I wanted to work for the Methodist Healthcare System when I graduated with my B.S.N. I received an email from the nursing school about the new internship program, and I knew this was for me.”
Castillo’s internship and her current RN position is in the Cardiac/Telemetry/Medical Surgical Unit at Methodist Specialty & Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. “This internship gave me the opportunity to get to know the people, the system and the protocols. After I graduated and passed my NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), my transition into my new job was a smooth one. I would highly recommend this opportunity to nursing students,” she added.
Undergraduate students in their seventh semester can apply to the program. Nursing school faculty and Methodist nurse managers interview the prospective participants who are all high-achieving students.
“During the interview, the nurse managers and nurse educators question them about their interest in particular units, five-year goals, work styles, and ability to handle stress,” Dr. O’Neal said. “The key aspect is making sure they are going to be a good fit with the unit.”
Although the program initially only included three Methodist hospitals, now all seven area hospitals are participating in the internship. Participating units include intensive care, orthopedics, general medicine, surgery, telemetry, pediatrics, operating room and obstetrics.
Students earn a stipend of $3,500 for the 260 internship hours, which are in addition to course and clinical hours required for school, during their last semester. This allows each student to
complete their immersion hours with the same preceptor (a B.S.N.-prepared nurse) as the internship preceptor, their leadership/management hours in the same facility, and their RN competencies and orientation objectives during the internship.
The students sign a contract requiring a two-year commitment to Methodist Healthcare System after they graduate. They are hired into an RN position at the end of the internship in the unit where they interned.
The number of internships is rising. In 2016, there were nine in the spring and 10 in the fall. Spring 2017 has reached 13 participants, she said.
“This has been an incredible vehicle for us to expand our great relationship with Methodist Healthcare System. It is wonderful to get to know the nurse managers,” Dr. O’Neal said. “And, Methodist knows we are vetting the best and brightest from our graduating class.”
Lingsch said the internship is helping develop Methodist’s workforce. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine issued “The Future of Nursing’s Campaign for Action” report. This statement included a goal of increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree from 50 percent to 80 percent by 2020.
“We knew we needed to expand our relationships with university partners. Other professions offer internships that are beneficial to all,” she said. “By building on our existing relationship with the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, we wanted to capitalize on their nursing students’ final semester of school, when they could complete their final degree requirements while becoming a part of a unit.”
Lingsch said the internship provides multiple benefits to the students. “Their additional clinical experience helps them better prepare for NCLEX. Their critical thinking skills have been honed during the internship. And, this program really helps jump start their careers. They are really far ahead of their peers. They enjoy a smoother transition from student nurse to registered nurse,” she said.
Methodist hospitals get an employee who is engaged and ready to become a part of the team, Lingsch said. “But, the patients are truly the biggest winners. They are cared for by a well-educated registered nurse who is familiar with the hospital, the health care team and the procedures.”
Shanae Rhodes, B.S.N., RN, began her internship in August 2016 and completed it shortly after graduating in December. Rhodes interned in the Medical Surgical Unit at Northeast Methodist Hospital.
Rhodes said the internship was invaluable to her because of the amount of confidence she gained during the experience. “Before the internship, I hadn’t felt as confident about my clinical skills. Because I felt like I was a part of the team, I was comfortable about asking questions. It made me feel like part of the work family,” she added.
Instead of working after graduation as a graduate nurse, Rhodes chose to take time off to prepare for the NCLEX. On Feb. 1, she learned she passed the national licensing exam. In March, she returned to the Medical Surgical Unit as a registered nurse.
“I hope the program keeps growing,” she said. “The internship allows you to get to know the hospital and the team. You gain the confidence and clinical experience to be able to take great care of your patients.”