In Summer 2020, Healthcare Quality hosted two interns, Amaya Benson and Maya Bougebrayel, who were able to support, shadow and work with four bureaus and two offices within Healthcare Quality. The interns gained invaluable experiences in many different areas throughout the six weeks of the program as Healthcare Quality continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and a new hurricane season. As Healthcare Quality makes way for its upcoming 2021 student internship program with applications being accepted starting March 1, 2021, we asked our two recent interns to describe their time spent with DHEC and what the internship program meant to them.
During my time interning with SCDHEC in Healthcare Quality, I learned a lot about what healthcare isn’t. Healthcare isn’t just doctors and nurses and hospital staff; it isn’t just patients and procedures either. After being with DHEC, I now know that health care is full of different facets that transcend farther than my previous knowledge, full of people who work tirelessly behind the scene in regulating facilities and people who are essentially the skeleton that upholds our healthcare system. During the two weeks with the Bureau of Facilities Oversight, I enjoyed spending time learning about emergency preparedness and how much staff actually work with the SC Emergency Management Division in preparing for natural disasters and public health threats like COVID. I was able to speak with administrators at nursing homes and community residential care facilities, learning how connected they are with DHEC and the ongoing stream of communication. Before the week we spent with the Bureau of Healthcare Planning and Construction, I never realized how inclusive the process is in the development and construction of new rooms and buildings for healthcare facilities, including hospitals. The process is so detailed, from the initial Certificate of Need (CON) application to the actual construction, and I was lucky enough to tag along to inspect a new construction area of a hospital. The backgrounds of the staff in the Bureau of EMS and Healthcare Professionals are so diverse, and I loved seeing how EMS is handled in a large network, and how often DHEC meets with EMS and first responders across the state. Despite the severity of the pandemic, ACC members were in high spirits and were hopeful in making sure our response efforts to COVID-19 remain as productive and effective as possible. My visit to the COVID-19 testing site shed light on the realities of how many are affected by the virus and I was impressed to watch how organized the testing process was. It’s clear that they are strategic and take the operations very seriously in both the preliminary steps, testing and transfer of samples.
We also gained valuable insight into how important the Bureau of Radiological Health protecting the public from exposure to radiation. We assisted in a mammograph inspection at Prisma Health that was way more complex than I could have anticipated. Knowing DHEC has to inspect and make sure all X-Ray users, from dental clinics to hospitals, have to be in compliance with federally mandated rules makes me appreciate the equipment all the more. It was interesting to realize the various ways that radiation occurs, the scientific knowledge, and the complex steps taken to prevent a potential catastrophe. The Office of Training and Compliance has an important job to investigate complaints and make sure facilities are in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements. When we shadowed the Office of Policy and Communications, we visited the State House. I’ve never been inside the State House, so having a private tour was very exciting! People have the intention to do the right thing, but I’ve learned throughout my internship that DHEC is there to help assist them rather than punish or critique.Everyone, DHEC and facilities, work together to make sure these healthcare facilities and services are as efficient and compliant as they can be. I am so thankful for this internship and the realization that healthcare is more than just doctors and nurses, but hospice providers, radiation technicians, paramedics, adult day cares, and so many more. Everyone from tattoo facilities to treatment facilities for chemically dependent or addicted persons are regulated and work with DHEC. The DHEC staff at Healthcare Quality are heroes behind the scenes making sure South Carolinians are safe and healthcare is accessible to all.
My experience at DHEC was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting and eye opening, but this internship allowed me to get a better understanding for the various aspects of healthcare, especially during this unprecedented time. The first two weeks at DHEC’s Healthcare Quality division was interning with the Bureau of Facility Oversight, the largest bureau. I shadowed JoMonica Taylor, the Community Care Oversight Manager, for several days. I was able to assist JoMonica with infectious control desk reviews for assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and community residential care facilities. These desk reviews aid in keeping accurate data on the number of COVID-19 cases throughout the state, and the state of COVID-19 support and concerns for each individual facility. To say that these reviews are important is an understatement. I am in awe of how much work goes into working with facilities to make sure infection control and prevention are handled efficiently. I was also fortunate enough to interact with the facilities one-on-one. My third week was spent with the Bureau of Healthcare Planning and Construction. I interned with several architects and construction managers, which was very unfamiliar to me. Even with my background in healthcare, I was so unaware of all the different aspects that create healthcare as a whole. I was able to shadow Louis Eubank, the Bureau Director. I was able to witness all the modifications made to Lexington Medical Center due to COVID-19, such as the implementation of negative pressure rooms. We discussed the future of construction and planning and how architects are implementing various protocols to help prevent transmission of airborne infections, such as placing antimicrobial agents on commonly used surfaces like a doorknob or a light switch. The science, codes, standards, and manpower that go behind healthcare planning and construction is such a massive undertaking!
My fourth week was spent interning with the Bureau of EMS and Healthcare Professionals. If I can choose favorites, I have to admit that this was my favorite bureau within Healthcare Quality because I felt as if it pertained to my career aspirations the best. My first day was spent shadowing the time Rich Wisniewski, who is now the Interim Bureau Director. I learned about the various trauma and pediatric trauma centers all throughout South Carolina. I even went on two different ambulance inspections. My most favorite part of the internship program was when we visited a COVID-19 testing site. I got to see the entire testing process from when the patient checks in with the nurse, to hearing the new CDC required questions being asked, to seeing the patient get swabbed. It was very interesting to see the process full circle. My fifth week was spent shadowing the Bureau of Radiological Health. This was by far the most unfamiliar material I was exposed to at DHEC! The Bureau of Radiological Health is split into Electronic Products and Radioactive Materials. I interned with Susan Jenkins, the Bureau Director, and was lucky enough to sit in on the Organization of Agreement States Annual Meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I am on track to become a pre-physician assistant, so being able to inspect mammography equipment and witness the various details of a radiation technologist’s job was fascinating.
I spent a week with the Office of Training and Compliance and the Office of Policy and Communications. These individuals help train, rewrite regulations, work with constituents, and have a part in every single bureau and office within Healthcare Quality. That was one of the greatest revelations of the internship program – no one is sequestered in their own program area. EVERY office and bureau work together to ensure compliance with regulations and that all needs are being met at facilities and with providers. This internship is so different than others in that I was able to explore so many career options that I, quite frankly, had no idea existed. Even having a background in Public Health, I still felt naive to the fact that I was so unaware of how many options there are to explore after graduation. Not only was I given the option to explore these different careers, but the fact that I had a healthcare internship through a global pandemic has been an experience I will never forget. Everyone at DHEC has taken on additional roles during this pandemic to ensure us South Carolinians are safe. I learned how large DHEC is, and how Healthcare Quality works consistently to improve the quality, safety, and administration of healthcare facilities, services, and professionals in South Carolina. Throughout this internship, I have learned that flexibility is the key to success in a workplace. With parts of the internship becoming remote due to COVID-19, I had to learn how to use various programs I had been unfamiliar with prior to the pandemic. I witnessed several people having to adapt to this new work environment, even though they spent their entirety of their career working from the office. I thank DHEC for this opportunity that is priceless and is a huge influence on my career track, and I feel all the more prepared for it because I interned here.
2021 Intern Applications Open March 1
Healthcare Quality would like to thank Amaya and Maya for sharing their experiences and thoughts! If you are interested in becoming a Healthcare Quality 2021 Summer Intern, then please be on the lookout for the 2021 Healthcare Summer Internship Program job posting that will be available at https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/sc on March 1, 2021. We will be releasing more application information in the coming weeks. We greatly look forward to reading why YOU want to intern for Healthcare Quality!