In our program, we attended a week-long orientation which is the same as what new nurses go through. It included several hours-long classes on diabetes management, restraints, and respiratory therapy, as well as the nitty-gritty of hospital policies, legal issues, delegation, the computer system, etc. During the course of the program, we have two individual conferences with the Externship Director, and a group "graduation" (there are 12 of us) that we can invite our familes to on the last day of the program.
We are allowed to do anything we have been trained for in school, but may not pass any meds or connect any IVs to patients, though we do spike the bag and prime the tubing, then hand it to the preceptor to attach, but then we get to set the drip rate (manually); we can't touch the IV pumps or the PCA pumps.
So far I've done a couple of straight caths, d/c'd about a thousand IVs, dressed several wounds (interesting, since I'd never worked with "fresh" wounds before), assisted during a trach re-insertion, translated for a few patients (fun!), comforted a ton of frightened pts/families, done a dozen or so EKGs, some orthostatics, a handful of blood glucoses, and more urine dips and re-vitalizing than I can count. I've been promised any NGTs and Foleys on my shifts, but so far there just haven't been any :-( They're letting me have a go at triaging the pts that come in by ambulance as well. I also do my share of making beds and hauling pts to xray.
My goal really is to get as much hands-on experience as they'll give me. I had never d/c'd an IV on a human before (just the lab mannequins at school), so, while it's not the most complex skill, I'm thrilled that I can now call myself the "Queen of D/C'ing IVs" since I've done so many. Everything I get to do makes me feel more competent and less of a bumbling student!
We can request to float to other units that interest us, and I'm planning days in PACU, the wound center, and with respiratory therapy (I REALLY want to work on the subtleties of lung sounds--right now I feel that I can basically tell you if the pt is breathing or not, and that's about it.) I can also follow pts if they go for specialized procedures--but so far the most interesting thing has been to hang out in CT a bit.
We can go to any courses offered by the Education Department, but they all but shut down for the summer which is too bad as I was hoping to score EKG interpretation and IV therapy, but they don't offer anything until September, and by then the program is over.
It's a great experience, and I'd really recommend it to anyone who can snag an externship position!