Externship?What exactly is it?

Specialties MICU


I am starting my ADN this fall, and I am enrolled now taking my general ed requirements and my pre-reqs are done. So, finally fall qtr I get to all the good stuff.

While I was surfing the web I found a hospital near by that offers an externship after one year of nursing school is completed.

What exactly is this and do you recommend it?

thanks, jules


303 Posts

Go for it! These are "learning" paid positions. You will be most likely be paired w/a preceptor and be doing things an RN would...w/some exceptions. You will be able to get your hands on more than a CNA would. Overall, these are great learning opportunities.

Good luck!

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

People use terms differently in different parts of the country and programs vary from hospital to hospital. However, as described by the previous poster, the word "externship" is usually used to refer to jobs designed for nursing students.

In some places, externs are used as just a cheap form of labor. They do nursing assistant tasks and no special effort is made to teach them skills beyond that. Such jobs might still be very worth taking as the individual extern can learn from those nursing assistant tasks, observe RN's in their roles, etc.

In other places, the extern role is more distinct from the basic nursing assistant role, with classes for the externs and the opportunity to learn and practice a few more advanced skills.

In some places, the extern program is primarily a summer's only experience -- essentially a full time summer job for BSN students in between their junior and senior year. The understanding is that when school starts back up again in the fall, they will be leaving -- or at least decreasing their work hours dramatically. These types of programs often offer the most organized classes, etc.

In other places, the externs can start employment at any time during the year and it is usually a part time, year-round job with fewer special classes or learning opportunities designed especially for the externs.

In general, these roles provide nursing students with an opportunity to practice basic skills and learn a few more ones. They often help boost the student's confidence. So, it is usually a good thing to work in one of these roles. However, some impressionable students may not use great judgment as they pick role models in the workplace and they may develop bad habits if work amidst poorly performing colleagues. Others may have a bad, unpleasant experience on a particular unit and wrongly assume that it represents "how it really is" in the whole world of nursing.

So ... they can be a great thing ... but you do need to investigate the specifics of any position when deciding whether or not it is right for you ... and you do need to take some of what you see and hear in these positions with a grain of salt.



1,062 Posts

Specializes in ICU, psych, corrections.

I'm doing an externship right now and just finished up with my first semester of my ADN program. I'm working in the ICU and I LOVE it! Unfortunately, as a Nurse Apprentice I, I can't do much in the way of patient care, but I have learned a LOT in just two weeks. I'm being paid almost $15 an hour to learn so much. Yesterday, I was able to see several central lines being put in, as well as a chest tube and the doctor drilling someone's skull to relive intracranial pressure. I was able to see some massive trauma patients who were transferred from the ER (one of whom hit a tree while skiing). The nurses have all been great and the best part of it is if I decide to work there when I'm finished with school (which I am planning on doing), I will already be familiar with the unit and where everything is. I had no idea how many tubes, wires, machines, etc. there would be in these rooms and it was quite intimidating. But now I'm able to turn a patient without worrying I'm going to rip something out of them. All the nurses encourage me to ask, ask, ask and some will even quiz me occasionally while giving a med.

Until school starts, I'm welcome to work when I want. I'm a per diem position so my schedule is really flexible. Right now, I'm working 2 or 3 12-hour shifts. Once school starts, I will be working on Saturdays from 6:30am to 7pm and possibly on Fridays as well.

Definitely jump on this opportunity. I love having a job in a real hospital, especially the ICU. I have been to a few other floors/units to check it out (telemetry, CIC, OR, ER,and General Surgery) and the only other place I think I might want to work would be OR or the ER. But I think I'm going to enjoy the ICU a lot and plan on staying there for a while. There is an incredible amount of material to learn and I'm amazed at all the nurses and how great they are at their job. They know what they're doing and really show genuine care and concern for their patients. And to top it off, the head of the ICU is great and I imagine she will be a great boss.


107 Posts

I was accepted into National University's (San Diego, Ca) generic BSN program and I start in October. How soon could I start working as a student nurse intern? I finish up my first Med/Surg. class in March '08. I need to make more than the $10/hr. I make as a M.A at a non-profit residential home that I work at. I am too "overqualified" to work in a clinic and "underqualified" to work in a hospital setting. I have kids to care for and it is tough to make ends meet. Anyone with some words of wisdom? Thanks.

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