Health Care Administration and Public Health

Putting Theory into Practice for HASL Students

Health Care Administration and Public Health

by Kevin Hansen, Department of Health and Aging Services Leadership


Internships, sometimes referred to as “experiential learning,” allow students in the Department of Health and Aging Services Leadership (HASL) to transform theory into practice, helping them gain professional skills for their future careers.; In her article titled “The Power of Experiential Education,” Dr. Janet Eyler (Vanderbilt University) articulated the value of experiential learning in the context of a liberal arts education:

Experiential education has value far beyond building the kind of social skills, work ethic, and practical expertise that are important in professionally oriented programs. In fact, experiential education can also lead to more powerful academic learning and help students achieve intellectual goals commonly associated with liberal education, including:

  • a deeper understanding of subject matter than is possible through classroom study alone;
  • the capacity for critical thinking and application of knowledge in complex or ambiguous situations; and
  • the ability to engage in lifelong learning, including learning in the workplace.

At Bellarmine, students complete internships of varying lengths in all three of the HASL majors: Bachelor of Arts in Aging Studies (90 hours), Bachelor of Science in Senior Living Leadership (500 hours), and Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration (1,000 hours). Upon completing the Health Services Administration degree and internship, aligned with accreditation standards of the National Association for Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), students are also eligible to sit for the majority of state licensure exams for nursing home administrators, as well as the NAB national examination.


“Living Laboratories” to Apply Knowledge Gained in Coursework

Experiential learning allows students in the department to apply their foundational coursework and knowledge in care settings and healthcare organizations. For our majors, coursework includes topics such as healthcare leadership, gerontology, quality improvement, health policy, health law, healthcare finance and reimbursement, marketing in health and aging services, human resources, and organizational behavior.

For students in Aging Studies, the internship experience flexibly focuses on numerous facets of health and aging services. These internships focus on policymaking related to care and service delivery for older adults, ancillary services for individuals receiving care (e.g., pet therapy), healthcare decision-making at the corporate level, mental health counseling, behavioral interventions for persons with dementia, elder law and health law, and more. Some students also use their internship to gain experience relevant for graduate studies in related disciplines (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology and counseling, social work).

For those students pursuing the Senior Living Leadership or Health Services Administration degrees, internship experiences most commonly occur in healthcare organizations such as nursing homes, assisted living centers, senior living organizations, or continuing care retirement communities (i.e., CCRCs, where several lines of service are provided at one site). Students rotate through various departments in the care setting to gain relevant, boots-on-the-ground knowledge about the staff members and services provided, to better inform their work as a future administrator or executive director. The internships ensure students get experience within all five NAB domains for long-term care: Customer Care, Supports, and Services; Human Resources; Finance; Environment; and Management and Leadership. The focus on NAB domains also aids students in being better prepared for national and state licensure exams upon graduation, which are required for those who wish to practice as an administrator or executive director in long-term care settings.


Preceptors who Teach, Advise, Mentor and Guide

Experienced, passionate leaders of highly regarded health and aging services organizations serve as mentors (or “preceptors”) for HASL students. These individuals represent the fields of long-term care, health and aging services, senior living, and home- and community-based services and work to familiarize students with operations of the host organization. Preceptors also assure the student has access to well-rounded experiences that enhance student learning and application of their coursework. As the student progresses through the experience, preceptors provide feedback designed to enhance the student’s skills and abilities and work with them as they self-assess their performance and improve in their professional development.

In many of the internships in care settings (e.g., nursing homes, assisted living centers), students gain first-hand experience through multiple departmental rotations at the start of their internship. Once the student is more familiar with their care setting, they are able to work on projects and efforts designed to improve the quality of care and quality of life for residents and assist the preceptor in daily tasks. This progression assures the student can gain useful, thorough experiences and yet work within the care community to add value back to the care and services provided to residents, clients, and consumers.


Prepared for Future Career Success

No matter which degree students pursue or the internship experience they have, HASL students are prepared to be knowledgeable, critically-thinking, ethical, talented leaders upon completion of their degree. The internship provides practical knowledge and résumé-building experiences that employers value in selecting future members of their organizations. Students move from observation and absorption of knowledge to practical application and thoughtful reflection of their internship experiences to enhance professional development prior to post-graduation employment.


Partner Sites for Internship Experiences

In Health and Aging Services Leadership, we are extremely fortunate to have many organizations that partner with the department to host students during internships and serve as preceptors. Given the variety of students’ interests and the potential careers students wish to pursue upon graduation, HASL has worked with a variety of organizations to deliver excellent, experiential learning opportunities:

  • Ambition Fitness
  • The Barrington
  • BrightSpring Health Services
  • Christian Care Communities
  • Episcopal Church Home
  • Family Ark
  • The Forum at Brookside
  • Highlands Nursing and Rehabilitation
  • Kentucky Army Reserve
  • Louisville East Post Acute
  • Magnolia Springs Louisville
  • Masonic Homes – Louisville and Shelbyville
  • Nazareth Home – Highlands and Clifton
  • ProRehab
  • Senior Medicare Patrol (Louisville Department of Health and Wellness)
  • Signature HealthCARE
  • Strause Law Group
  • Sunrise Senior Living
  • Trilogy Health Services
  • Trilogy Health Services – Hampton Oaks and Glen Ridge
  • WAGS Pet Therapy of Kentucky


Explore Internship Opportunities Today

If you would like more information on pursuing an internship in Health and Aging Services Leadership, or to partner with HASL and host a student during their experience, please contact Dr. Kevin Hansen (, Associate Professor and Internship Coordinator.

Tags: Health Care Administration and Public Health , Internship



Located in the historic Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.