Pre-Health Service Learning

A Helping Hand (AHH) hosts a year-round Pre-Health Service Learning Internship Program for college students interested in careers in healthcare. A recent class of pre-health service learning interns logged nearly 6,000 service hours of service to older adults in the home setting. Participants included undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students. Former interns with AHH are currently attending medical school at Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Georgetown and other top-ranked schools.

Pre-health interns gain direct geriatric care experience in the home setting, develop strong interpersonal and leadership skills, and have the opportunity to work with a diverse client base.

AHH serves older adults 65+ years of age, as well as younger adults who may need assistance due to an accident, illness, injury or disability. Most of our clients are between the ages of 75 and 105.

Gain Direct Care Experience

  • Escort clients to medical appointments and act as a patient advocate
  • Provide medication reminders
  • Engage clients in intellectually stimulating activities
  • Assist the visually impaired with reading, correspondence and home organization.
  • Run errands that would be challenging for someone with reduced mobility
  • Plan and prepare basic meals
  • Accompany clients to social, community, religious and other events
  • Provide respite to family caregivers so that they may attend to their own needs
  • Internships during the semester require a minimum of six hours a week.
  • Summer internships require a minimum of 10 hours per week. Both include a unique training experience to enhance skills for working with older adults. Interns gain approximately 30 hours of training from healthcare professionals in the community.

There are also opportunities for interns to do additional paid work as a companion. This opportunity can be discussed with a supervisor at the start of the internship.

Our training sessions and relationships with health care providers in the community enable interns to have face-to-face contact with health care professionals in the community. Our sharing of information on community trainings enables students with an interest in a particular area to pursue training beyond what AHH offers.

Learn About Working With Older Adults

The curriculum for the internship includes the following training sessions:

General Orientation
Focuses on strengthening skills to better understand the challenges faced by older adults and individuals with disabilities. This training teaches effective communication, adherence to policy, how to establish professional boundaries with clients, emergency procedures, confidentiality and guidelines for successful visits.

Communication and Sensitivity Awareness
This hands-on training includes discussion and role-playing to better understand how impaired vision, arthritis and limited mobility may impact day-to-day activities and responsibilities. How does it feel to no longer be able to drive, or to have difficulty accomplishing a routine task? This training involves clients sharing personal experiences.

Interns receive instruction on the safe and proper use of walkers, canes and wheelchairs, as well as how to safely assist a client in and out of a chair or car. This may include a visit to the Duke Center for Living.

Interns gain knowledge about cognitive deficiencies and learn how to effectively communicate with both the Alzheimer’s patient and the family caregiver.


AHH also provides each intern class with supplemental trainings on topics pertinent to older adults, as well as information on community trainings that are available to students who want to learn more about a particular subject. Past trainings have included the following:

  • Understanding Depression in the Elderly: this training includes a discussion of the signs of depression in the elderly. Guidance is provided on how to help older adults through this difficult time.
  • Diet and Fitness in the Senior Population: this session offers insights into how diet and fitness affect the senior population.
  • Accommodations for the Visually Impaired: Interns visited a client who had implemented many adaptive devices to compensate for mobility and visual losses. The students participated in a discussion with the 97-year-old client and his wife and then toured their home to learn how each device helped the gentleman maintain an active life.
  • Patient Advocacy: Tiffany Christensen from Project Compassion, a courageous woman who has Multiple Sclerosis, shares her journey as the recipient of a double lung transplant. Interns learned skills on how to relate to clients in crisis and how to be an effective patient advocate.

Requirements for Interns

  • Provide direct care in an exemplary manner that demonstrates compassion, responsibility and reliability
  • Complete a reflection paper upon completion of the internship
  • Interns may or may not receive course credit. This needs to be initiated by the student.
  • Interns must attend required training and complete the minimum number of internship hours (90 hours).
  • As we assist seniors in their homes throughout the Triangle, a car is required in order to provide Companion Care to seniors in the area.
  • We ask that interns be 18 years of age or older as the majority of our services are in private homes with limited supervision.
  • A background check is required for all interns, which is paid for by the intern. *

*Because of the extensive contact interns have with vulnerable individuals, we run a thorough background check on all interns and staff. The cost for each background check is roughly $20 per person. AHH will provide a link to this service after the initial meeting and an expressed interest to interns. This allows us to reduce the funds we spend on administrative fees and maximize the funds available to assist more seniors.

Internship Program Description

View the 2018 Internship Program Description

Apply Now!


To repay Mr. T for the humility he has taught me,  I help him every Friday to have a better day that day than he did the day before.

McCaig, Summer 2015 Intern July 21, 2015

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