No Need To Internalize Your Feelings About The Intern

, | Working | May 17, 2017

(I work as a speech therapist. My mom, who is also my boss, asks me to take her acquaintance’s daughter as an intern. I contact her and we meet up to discuss everything. She is really shy and quiet, but seems nice. She tells me she studies at the same university I went to and plans to work as a speech therapist after graduation. We agree to a four week internship, where she will observe me at first and then gradually take over some of my tasks. She starts her internship a few weeks later and everything goes smoothly. At the beginning of the second week I talk to her.)

Me: “So, you’ve watched me for a week. I think you’re ready to plan and do your first own session. What do you think?”

(She shoots me a horrified look, but doesn’t say anything.)

Me: “If you think you need more time, it’s okay if you just watch for another week.”

Intern: “That would be better. I don’t think I’m ready yet.”

(So she continues shadowing me. I try to include her in a therapy or two, e.g. when I am playing a board game with a child, I ask her to join us, which she only does reluctantly. During the third week, I approach her again.)

Me: “So, you’ve had a lot of time to observe how to do a session. I want you to plan and do one by yourself next Monday. Who do you want to work with? I’ll let you choose.”

Intern: “I’m still not ready.”

Me: “Well, we agreed that you will take over some of my patients over time. I mean, if you want to work in this field, you’ll need work experience. This is your chance to gain some.”

Intern: “But… I…”

Me: “I totally understand you. I was just as shy when I started this job. But the best way to cope with it is to just do it. My mom didn’t ask me once if I wanted to do something. She just said, ‘Here, read his file, you’re going to do the next session.’ And left the room. I remember how scared I was, but it went well. Okay, sometimes it didn’t go well, but that didn’t kill me. You’ve seen me; even I didn’t know what to do or what to say in some situations. It happens. You are free to choose the patients to work with, so you can pick the easy ones. And if you do get stumped, I’m next to you to help you out.”

Intern: “I’d rather continue watching you.”

(I sigh internally. It may not sound like it, but having someone at your side all day, watching your every move, can be very exhausting. On the other side, being an introvert myself, I can relate to her fears.)

Me: “Okay, then here’s my offer. You complete these four weeks just watching me. After your next semester you can come here for another internship, so you’ll have enough time to prepare for it.”

Intern: “No. I’ll apply somewhere else for my next internship.”

(I am taken aback, but don’t say anything. Then, on the next day…)

Intern: “I’ve been thinking about your offer. I’d like to accept.”

Me: ”Well, okay then. We’ll discuss that next week on our final meeting.”

Intern: “What? Next week? I already told the boss I wanted to extend the internship. I’ll be here for another two weeks.”

(I can’t remember my mom telling me about it, but think she may have forgotten, so I just shrug it off. Three weeks later, the minute the last session ends, the intern packs her stuff, wishes me a nice weekend, and disappears without another word. Now I am really angry. Not only did I tell her I wanted to talk about her next internship on our last day, I also expected a few words of appreciation, or a ‘thank you’ at least. I later tell my mom about it.)

Mom: “Why was she here today anyway? I thought she was supposed to leave two weeks ago?”

Me: “She told me she asked you to extend the internship, and you said yes. I figured you just forgot to tell me.”

(Turns out my mom didn’t know anything about this. Basically, the intern lied to me. I’m fuming, but my mom asks me to let her have her second internship with me, as she doesn’t want to upset her acquaintance. Fast forward six months. The girl starts her first week with us again. As she looks utterly terrified, I decide to let her work only one or two sessions a day for the first week. I show her around.)

Me: “This will be your office for the next few weeks. These are the patient’s files for today and tomorrow. Please read them carefully so you know what we’re working on. I also put post-it-notes on the covers with the most important points regarding the patient and recommendations for the first sessions. If you have any questions, just feel free to stop by my office and ask. No matter what I’m doing, just come in anytime. Now, you’ll have about an hour to prepare. The session starts at [time].”

(I am the one who observes her work. She manages to hide her insecurities well, but after the first few days I realize that she neither read the files nor did she look at the material before she started, despite having more than enough time. Naturally, there is a lot of confusion and I have to intervene a few times. Of course, I tell her my observations and give her tips to perform better. I try to talk to her as carefully as I can; however, she doesn’t take it very well. Then, one day she is supposed to show up at four pm. Her patient cancels the appointment, so I let her know via text.)

Me: “Hi. Your 4:00 appointment got cancelled, but I have a replacement for you, if you want.”

(I expect a reply, but never get one, so I assume she did not read the text and will show up at the scheduled time. Five minutes before her session starts, she still isn’t there, so I text her again.)

Me: “I see you’re running late. I prepared everything for you so you can start right away.”

Intern: “I thought you meant I could come in later. But I can’t. I have something else to do.”

Me: “Are you serious? I expected you at four pm. You didn’t tell me otherwise.”

(She arrives in a huff and twenty minutes late. I can’t give her the patient now, as I have already started. To make things worse, they were a double booking, as I planned on having the intern. I let her do the next session as planned. Nearing the end, she starts to stall. By the time the patient finally leaves, I am ten minutes late for the next one, meaning overtime for me on an already long day.)

Me: “I would have liked to talk to you about today, but we’re overdue. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

Intern: “It was a misunderstanding…”

Me: “I’m really sorry, but we won’t discuss that now. I need to work”

(She keeps insisting on defending herself and doesn’t move from my desk. I have enough.)

Me: “Okay, listen. I see the misunderstanding. I asked you if you wanted to come anyway. An answer to that would have been nice. You can’t just say nothing. I need to plan. I had a huge problem telling two moms why their children, four and eleven, by the way, had to share one therapist today. They weren’t happy at all. I know I shouldn’t have scheduled them both for the same time, but after you didn’t answer my texts I expected you to be here at four pm. I thought if you didn’t want to come you’d have told me so. You’ve caused me unnecessary work today, not to mention the overtime. Your behavior was unprofessional.”

(She left without another word. For the next days she called in sick, then sent me a termination letter. I tried to talk to her to resolve the problem, but she refused. However, she demanded a certification for the nearly five hours she worked here. I wrote one, but she has yet to pick it up.)

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