• Enhancing internships: Focus on hospital administration

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    IN the 80s, the then-Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports guidelines for opening degree programs for the professions prescribed that 40 percent of the academics teaching in the programs become active practitioners of their profession. The 60 percent are fulltime with the academe who usually are assigned to conduct general education/core/liberal arts, including physical education and sports classes. Present CHED guidelines reiterate general requirements for opening professional degree programs that academics teaching in profession-related specialization courses be duly registered and are holders of the appropriate professional license, have earned aligned graduate/postgraduate degrees and have had professional practice. CMOs spell out additional qualifications requirement for the academic force specific to a profession.

    Today’s technology generates more intensive global and regional interaction among areas in human life, giving rise to new competency demands for various professions. Actual practitioners, more than those who have ceased to be active, will naturally have a deeper understanding of trends in their respective turfs. They are expected to have better judgment on what new competencies a profession would need, are more certain of what change is desirable to introduce, which could, as it were, add flavor to the change given that they have a firm anchor on trends since they are in medias res.

    CHED-approved curricula require students to undergo for a specific number of hours an internship program—exposure to the reality of the work world to draw a better understanding of theories learned and further develop the skills and values necessary in real life settings. Such an exposure has varied labels—OJT, internship, field practicum/practice and related learning/field experience (RLE). What then is the bottom line of these various labels? An internship is a structured teaching/learning intervention for students that connect academic content to real-life situations. As in the case of health-care systems administration, RLE is designed to provide actual experience in integrative procedures in resources administration of, and patient care in, lying-in clinics, schools, industrial establishments, community/outpatient clinics, general and specialty hospitals, etc. through appropriated scenarios in actual and vicarious case studies.

    Similarly, in graduate studies, internships are required in some programs, such as health-care systems administration. In this regard, may I share with you an interview with Dr. Ramon M. Nery, hospital executive director of the JR Borja General Hospital, in Cagayan de Oro City, himself a master’s degree holder in hospital administration and a seasoned executive. Rather than concentrating more on the operating margin, Nery suggests a focus on service as operating paradigm. Public health-care systems, such as hospitals, should focus on being able to dispense prompt, reliable quality medical services for all and, most especially, for those bereft of resources. Such is possible, when executive directors adopt a leadership role in the organization’s resource generation activities. They also have to see that their administrators “complete tasks on time and according to established standards and requirements.” Public hospitals, like non-profit organizations, usually assign an executive director “responsible for all strategic plans and decisions regarding the organization’s day-to-day operations, including overseeing the organization’s human resources and financial operations, as well as its program-oriented activities.” Given our increasing population (as of July, we are 102,250,133 or 1.54 percent more than a year ago), the stark socio-economic inequalities among us, Filipinos, and lessening availability of primary-care physicians, hospital executives can forge partnerships with community and non-profit organizations for alternate primary care providers. <www.worldometers.info/world-population/philip pines-population/>. Patient safety, satisfaction and security, financial challenges, hospital security and regulatory demands are realities that interns can learn to grapple with through appropriated scenarios. These compose the challenging work related to their major “that is recognized by the organization as valuable,” and about which interns must be taught—realities in Philippine health-care systems with all the challenges confronting their operations and how professionals come up with viable solutions to better serve their communities. Relative to this, interns can be made to participate in generating budgetary buffers. Such outsourcing is what the JR Borja City Hospital does—from the PhilHealth, the Medical Assistance Program (MAP) of the Department of Health, and the Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Evidence-based competent hospital operations, as experienced by this City Hospital, draws out the generosity of sponsors, transforming a once indistinct city hospital into an upcoming one in a brief span of time. Indeed, far-seeing executives need not lean solely on their hospital’s budgetary allocations, awaiting funding opportunities. They, instead, create them.

    Should hospital executives regularly meet with interns? Nery suggests that beginning with the signatories of the MOA on the internship between an HEI and a specific health-care system, the internship preceptors/the hospital team and the intern should be clear about each one’s role to have the same expectations. This can be achieved through orientation sessions. Also, if degree program staff members of preceptors regularly join the visits to concerned employer work sites, the staff shall have the opportunity to “see firsthand the types of experiences their students are getting.” This “builds a better working relationship with these groups, leads to more student referrals, enhances campus visibility, and increases flexibility on their part when hospital business needs dictate.” At the end of internship, “a real-time exit interview” can round up the internship experience <http://careers.osu.edu/posts/documents/15-best-practices-for-internship-programs.grams.pdf>.

    As the same source advises, interns should be exposed to “top talent in a culture that values innovation, excellence and the highest level of commitment, given opportunities to practice and demonstrate the identified track competencies, not insular in nature; but an ideal exposure to modern practices, providing meaningful real-life situations to apply classroom learning.”

    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies included not only education and pedagogy but also literature, general science, history and math. She studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Great Britain and Japan, headed chartered institutions, was vice-president for academics and for external relations and internationalization. She is copy editor of the Liceo journals, internationalization consultant and professorial lecturer-on-call and at the Graduate Studies of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro City). She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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