A medical externship is a short-term learning experience within a specific profession to learn more about the field. For St. Paul’s students, that could be in the field of nursing, medical assisting, or dental assisting. Through the externship, you get to take a peek behind the curtain to learn more about what’s required of the job. You’ll also be doing hands-on work.
Essentially, you’re job-shadowing a healthcare professional in their workplace. The goal is to give you the opportunity to practice skills you learned about in the classroom in a real-world setting with real patients. Through this opportunity, you’ll have a chance to assess what kind of healthcare facility and job suits you.
Here’s how to prepare.
Be prepared to take notes. Transitioning from the classroom theoretical environment to working on real patients can be stressful. You may feel like you’re swimming in new information. Carry a notebook with you, so you can take notes along the way and review them later or ask questions of your colleagues.
Study up. You’ll probably use all your classroom information, so set aside time to go over the information in case you’ve forgotten anything. That might mean reviewing key concepts weekly so you understand the information in a deeper way.
Plan to ask questions. As intimidating as it is to be new on the job, your entire goal is to learn, and the professionals around you want to help you do that. You’re not bothering your supervisor or coworkers when you ask them about specific procedures or why they did something a certain way. Listen hard, ask questions, and gather as much information as you can. Later, when you’re job hunting, the people who mentored you may remember you for your keen attention. That could help you with your job prospects.
Be willing to take on responsibility. If you have the chance to learn more about roles outside your department, take it. Learn as much as you can, and network with professionals along the way. That isn’t more complicated than getting to know your colleagues and showing them you’re eager to learn.
Practice your “soft” skills. Maybe you’re already great at interfacing with the public and getting to work on time, but an externship offers a chance to build good habits into your skill set. Soft skills include arriving to work on time, interacting with colleagues and patients respectfully and professionally, taking responsibility for mistakes, and contributing to teamwork in a positive way.
Treat it like it’s your job. Just like at a “real job”, it’s important to follow basic good employee practices such as arriving on time each day as well as dressing and acting appropriately and professionally. Approach the externship like you would an interview because, in many cases, it is. Students who do well and act professionally will often receive job offers from their extern site after they complete their program.
If you’re looking to jumpstart a career in healthcare, St. Paul’s School of Nursing can get you started. We have campuses in Queens and Staten Island. Visit our website or call (855) 822-3018 to speak to one of our admissions representatives or to schedule a campus tour.