Quote from speedykicks
I am just starting nursing school this fall. Please tell me more about externships - how are they structured? What is the pay like, compared to CNA jobs or other part-time jobs nursing students have? Is there an emphasis on learning? Is it too much with clinicals and school work? Please elaborate - I really want to hone my clinical skills in nursing school.
Here's what I've learned about externships ...
You really have to be aggressive about it in school. They don't always tell you about externships and there is often misinformation ... like when you can start. Some hospitals will take you after just one semester of nursing school. Other hospitals want you to finish at least two semesters. Don't listen to rumors. Find out first hand from the hospitals and the school administrator in charge of externships how the program really works.
At my school you also have to sign up for cooperative education to do it. If you don't, you can get in big trouble with the Board of Nursing. One student got kicked out of nursing school all together for not simultaneously registering for the required course work that accompanies the externship.
Also, at my school, you can do the skills that you have been checked off on in lab or clinical. It's great because you can practice skills as soon as you've been taught them in school. But you need to keep copies of your check offs so you can document that you're only doing the skills allowed under the program. That way you're also covered with the Board of Nursing.
The bottom line is: Be careful to find out about all of the rules and follow them carefully.
Not all externships are equal. Some hospitals do nothing but assign students CNA work. Other hospitals implement more "real" externships where you might do some CNA but are also assigned to RN's for lots of training. Find out which hospitals have the best programs.
And ... speaking of CNA ... don't be a primma donna. Some students felt they were above CNA work, refused to do it, and the hospitals did fire them. But once you prove you're a team player and do the CNA work, the RN's go out of their way to help train you and give you lots of RN skills ... or, at least, that's been my experience.
Externships are often competitive and the early bird does get the worm. Before I was even eligible, I started interviewing two months before the semester was over so I could get the slots left vacant by graduating students. So I was already set before other people applied who had to fight for vacancies.
Some externships will take you all the way through nursing school, including summer and winter breaks, with no time limits. And some programs are really flexible too. With my hospital, we completely set our own schedule. I only have to work six shifts the entire semester although, I choose to do more than that. And, if I have a test coming up, they usually let me skip work that week. It's great if you can find a really flexible program.
Oh ... and my externship pays $10 an hour.
Hope this helps.