Internship Spotlight: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

Current student Vance Boyd shared the following about being an intern at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program…

How did you find this internship?
I first heard of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) when my Grandma dropped off a New York Times magazine at my house and told me to read an article about a program working on providing healthcare to people experiencing homelessness in Boston. My Grandma knew that this was the exact type of work I hoped to do some day, and thought I would be interested in reading the article. The article was not only a great read, but also led to my internship this past summer. After sending a few emails, it became clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I reached out to the career center at Tufts who was able to establish a connection with someone at BHCHP. Having an actual person at BHCHP to reach out to made the difference in being able to secure this internship. Once my email that I sent to BHCHP was read by a real person, it was a relatively easy process to get an internship secured. I can’t thank the career center enough!

What did you enjoy most about your internship? 
What made this internship so special for me were the people. Both my coworkers and the patients I worked with were all amazing and inspired me in different ways. My coworkers were filled with endless compassion, dedication, and knowledge. No matter how many questions I asked, how many times I needed help with something, or how hard the situation we were confronted with was, my coworkers were always ready to help and get to work. They constantly made me feel welcomed and useful, even in the first few weeks when every moment felt especially new and challenging to me. The patients I worked with were equally inspiring. I was drawn to the healthcare industry due to the opportunity to work closely with and help people, and that interest remained throughout my experience this summer. In this internship I was able to work with people experiencing a variety of different challenges, which was what truly made my experience so meaningful. I continue to be amazed at both the proportion of difficulty some people face as well as the resiliency of many of these people.

What did you find challenging?
When working directly with people, I have repeatedly found the greatest challenge to be not becoming too emotionally distraught over the circumstances of the people you are working with. Going into this internship I knew I would be confronted with many difficult situations. I was not oblivious to the challenges of homelessness, yet I was still repeatedly shocked by the immense emotional toll of caring for someone who faces these challenges. Each day I either met new people or spent time with people I had previously met who were dealing with incomprehensibly difficult situations. As the summer progressed, I was able to learn how to better process these feelings. With this being said, it will never be easy to meet someone who is struggling to such a great extent, than to go home and act as if everything is normal. I learned to tell myself that despite it being hard to see or process these things, it was better that someone was there to try their best to help then not be there at all. Feeling like I was able to make a difference, even if it was very small, helped greatly in being able to emotionally process the situations of the people I was working with.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to make the most of an internship like yours?
The best advice I have for other people pursuing an internship in healthcare or an internship in which you are working with underserved populations is to have confidence and to dive right into the work you are doing. When I first arrived at my internship I felt terrified at the prospect of meeting with a patient one on one, or even having to call a patient on the phone. What if I didn’t know how to help them? What if I was unable to answer their questions? Of course I encountered both these situations many times, and it was okay. In my experience, the staff of these organizations simply want you to be compassionate, hard working, and willing to embrace learning (which often means doing something that seems scary). No one expects perfection and staff members are often too busy to guide you through every experience. Unless you make the decision, you could be left sitting on the sidelines and never really getting into the work you came to do. It is important to have confidence that you will do a good job, and know that it is okay to be learning as you go!

By Sheryl Rosenberg
Sheryl Rosenberg Associate Director