If there is one thing I learned this summer, it’s that internships are just that: internships. Even the most well-intentioned employers often times don’t have use for the 20-year old sitting around their office. So, grunt work is required.
Out of all of these tasks, my (least) favorite was a data entry project. “MaineCare Waivers,” I was told, were waivers for Maine residents to receive care outside of a nursing home. There are five waivers in all, each one applying to a different type of care. So, someone with a brain injury would use waiver #4. An adult with a developmental disability would receive funds for care under waiver #2. So on and so on. The “waiver” is essentially an allotment of funds that goes towards your in home care. So it goes.
My job, as Sam The Intern, was to compile all the different waiver information into a spreadsheet. Waiver #4 allowed funds to be used for transportation, but waiver #3 did not. Item after item was categorized and input into a spreadsheet. Five slightly different 35 page legal documents were turned into a comparative spreadsheet, one dollar sign at a time.
The project took about a week. When I was done, though, I had people from all over the office thanking me for all the work I did. Thanking me for making the document everyone needed but nobody would put together themselves. Apparently, the grunt work that I thought was to keep me busy was actually something everybody around me needed. Intake personnel could refer callers to the guide instead of answering all of there specific questions. Attorneys could quickly pull it up to accurately work with different types of clients. I might have hated doing the work, but I made a lot of peoples’ lives a whole lot easier.
And, on top of that, I learned a whole lot about how our state/federal healthcare system works. I don’t know if it’s a sector I ever want to work in, but after pooling over official documents for hours on end, I have a better understanding of what all the fuss is about. People need the services I was reading about. But, at the same time, a lot of taxpayer money is needed to fund them. Political arguments this summer have been centered around this exact predicament, and I’ve realized how nice it is to have a deeper understanding of what’s really going on.
So did I like doing it? No. But, internships are internships. They exist for no other reason than to give young people a peek at the real world. If they like what they see, they stick around. If they don’t, they leave. For me? I think I need a little more time to figure that out.