I am in a very unique externship program, and want to share my experience so other nursing students can learn about it. This is a great thread-- thanks for starting it!
Ok, to start: I am starting my senior year of a BSN program in the fall (Aug 30th). Last spring, I started thinking about externships and getting my foot in the door somewhere (anywhere!). So, I started searching hospital websites and seeing what they had to offer. I applied to 3 large hospitals in April that all required med/surg 1 to be completed. Received a call back to interview with two of the hospitals, who both ultimately offered me a job which I had to decline due to my acceptance into a great program elsewhere.
Since I am an officer on my school's Student Nurses Association, I also became aware of the VALOR program at my local VA hospital. VALOR stands for VA Learning Opportunity Residency, and is open to nursing students and pharmacy students. It is very competitive and requires: a letter of recommendation from the Dean of Nursing at your school, enrollment in a BSN program (approaching senior year), four references from clinical instructors, 3.0 GPA and above, no less than a solid B in any nursing course, etc.
I applied to the VALOR program and ended up getting called for an interview. There were 19 applicants, and 8 of us were interviewed separately by a panel of nurses, nurse educators, etc. After this, 4 of us were called back for a second interview in front of another panel. Two of us were picked from the second interview and offered the job.
The program is 40 hours per week for 10 weeks in the summer, and then part time (1 or 2 shifts) during the school year until graduation. I am being paid 80% of a new grad RN salary, and am paired up with a preceptor. I'm on a general med/surg unit, and the other VALOR student is on a telemetry unit. I've learned: computerized charting, bar code med administration, IV starts, blood draws, blood transfusions, PICC line care, foley placement, etc, etc. I have also been to radiology to see PICC line placement, and will be floating to other areas of the hospital to get more experiences. I'll be going to ICU for a day, OR, ED, spend a day with the wound care nurse, infection control nurse, etc. I also attend classes; I've been to a wound care course, an ostomy care course, took a class about lateral violence in nursing, and lots of other stuff! The other VALOR student and I are also required to collaborate on a project for our units and present it to the nurse managers and other staff at the end of the month. We are given full use of the hospital's library and resources to complete the project, and get paid time off the floor to work on it.
It's really amazing. The vets are a tough population to work with, but for the most part are very grateful for everything you do for them. I feel like this program is miles above the rest in terms of learning how to utilize your time in patient care and learning valuable clinical skills. Also, if RN positions are available upon graduation, the VALOR's are given preference for these positions, and starting salary is 2 steps higher than a regular new grad BSN (equates to about an extra $5000/year). It was a real pain with all of the interviewing, paperwork, background checks, etc. to get into the VA system, but well worth it.
If anyone has questions about the program, please feel free to ask!