Can a book help you find a great internship?

Grace Hutchison had great expectations going into her internship at UnityPoint Health (now Carle Health) as a human resource and patient experience intern, and she was not disappointed. The experience gave the biomedical sciences major a bedside view of the patient experience as well as a greater understanding of employee satisfaction, which it turns out, have a significant correlation.

Prior to her internship, Hutchison read a book called “Patients Come Second,” which challenges the traditional health care model by encouraging leaders to create exceptional teams and connect their employees’ work with a higher purpose. She was so impressed with the findings in this book, it set the foundation for her internship.

“I knew I had to get in the hospital and try to duplicate some of this research,” she said.

Luckily, the vice president of human resources at UnityPoint was familiar with the book and approved her research proposal and provided the guidance to move forward with the project.

A large part of Hutchison’s role was to make rounds on each department and floor, observing hospital staff with patients and getting an insider’s perspective on the organization’s culture.

She quickly learned the patient’s experience is not always related to the care they received. For instance, someone visiting the emergency room for stomach pains may end up being admitted for a few days to pass a kidney stone.

“Even though the individual’s care was excellent, they may rank their experience poorly because they were not expecting to have to stay in the hospital for several days,” Hutchison explained.

Another indicator directly related to the staffing shortage most organizations still struggle with post-COVID.

“Too many patients with not enough staff can be perceived as a lack of empathy or compassion by patients. In my research, I discovered ways to increase the connection between patients and staff without taking too much time or energy.”

One of her suggestions was to have unskilled workers visit with patients and serve as an advocate. Hutchison was able to take what she learned from her observations and compare it to patient surveys to compile a comprehensive report.

“I spent time looking for correlations in the data and determining the reasons behind department outliers,” she said. Hutchison also relied on input from hospital staff to increase her understanding further.

“Grace was hard-working, patient, kind, dedicated and determined to get this project done,” said Lisa Plantamura, UnityPoint Health’s director, People and Culture. “She effectively communicated with her data and with all levels of leadership to complete this project. It was a pleasure to have her work with our teams.” 

Having a voice at the table made Hutchison feel like her work mattered and she is grateful for the opportunity.

“I understand more fully the hospitals’ daily operations and the staff’s needs,” she said. “I look forward to being in this line of work with all of its expansive and endless possibilities.”

All Bradley students are encouraged to pursue experiential learning and career development through the Smith Career Center.

Emily Potts