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Role of Externships in Healthcare Programs


Healthcare Technology Advances

After students complete their courses in healthcare, many students find themselves having a difficult time when they face real-time challenges on a job. These challenges could include coping with unfamiliar technology, shift hours, psychological and professional stressors, heavy patient loads, social pressures, patient safety issues and more. These challenges and difficulty navigating them are normal, because there is a difference between learning about challenges and actually dealing with them. Students often struggle to connect their educational experiences with the realities of practice.

The educational experience from text books, lab assignments and even practical projects, all give only a certain level of exposure. A study has indicated that new nurses need more support than what is made available in new, unfamiliar work spaces. The turnover rate of new graduate nurses is 35% to 69% of nurses leaving their job within the first year of employment. This reduces the efficiency and productivity of hospitals, while increasing cost. This is where an externship can play a crucial role in a student’s success at his or her first job after graduation, and even beyond.

What is an externship?

A medical externship program can give you a jumpstart before you start searching for a job. Externships are short programs that range from a few days to a few weeks, where you work in live environments with industry specialists who have years of experience. Here are some of the valuable benefits of taking on an externship.

  • Real world experience with professionals – No amount of books can replace the knowledge that a professional gathers in real-time. During the course, you may have done small projects or worked on other students as subjects; but during an externship, you work on actual patients under the supervision of someone who is currently in the field. This person can help guide you in situations where you are nervous or unsure about yourself and can introduce you to more angles of approaching an issue.
  • Experience in the actual workspace – Medical students work in a variety of environments ranging from clinics to large hospitals. Every workspace has its own challenges and they cannot be replicated in your course. During an externship, you get to interact with other professionals in your field, and from their experiences, you can decide which healthcare facility best suits you.
  • Building-up your interpersonal skills – Books can only give you information you need to succeed, but experience and great interpersonal skills will take you to a whole new level. Getting to work on time, following up on your commitments, treating your colleagues and patients with care and respect, are skills that are sought after in many fields, including the healthcare industry. However, building these skills takes practice, and being in a real healthcare facility will help you develop these skills quickly and can give you a jump in connecting with others for job references in the future.
  • Mentorship – While you are working with other professionals, you can ask questions about how they started their career, the challenges they faced and how they resolved them. This is a great way to get advice on how to start your own career and how to deal with situations as they arise. This is also an opportunity to receive additional feedback on your work and how you can improve. You may even meet someone who will become your mentor throughout your career!
  • Networking opportunities – Developing good relations is one of the biggest investments that you can make in your career. It starts with your first field experience and continues throughout your career. While you are doing the externship, get to know the names of your colleagues, exchange phone numbers and stay in touch with them.
  • Smoother transition – When searching for a job, students who have done externships can be given preference over those who haven’t. The reason is clear – once you have the exposure to a live working environment and medical equipment, you have a better understanding of the challenges that occur day-to-day. Therefore, you may require less training or guidance in certain situations, which is beneficial to your employer. Since you are more mentally and emotionally prepared, you are also likely to better handle the pressure, stay in the job for longer and contribute more to the medical institution as your career advances. Many medical institutions also use externships as a tool to enhance their recruitment efforts. In some cases, the facility may choose to hire you at the end of your externship. Even if the offer does not come right away, it can come later, provided you made a lasting impression on the people with whom you worked.

How to prepare for an externship?
When you get an externship, it is normal to feel nervous about starting. However, it is important to remember that this is a learning experience that will allow you to make connections and gain real experience, which gives you an edge against other students. Here are some tips on preparing for an externship.

  • Take physical notes – You may be bombarded with new information, which can leave you overwhelmed. Carry a notebook and pen to take notes you can refer to later. It may not be possible to remember all the information that you receive, but these notes can be useful if you want to ask questions later or when you complete the externship.
  • Spread your wings – Externships are not the time to remain confined to only your role. Push yourself to take on more responsibilities if you are given the opportunity, and learn about or within other departments so that you can get as much experience as possible.
  • Be a good listener – Listening is essential because it is important to understand what is going on around you, how people are dealing with certain situations, and to be aware of your surroundings. This will allow you to expand your horizons because you will be able to understand different aspects of the profession quicker.  The facility took you on as an extern because it believes in educating students to become better professionals. So don’t hesitate to move out of your comfort zone to play an integral role, and take as much value out of your externship as possible.

Enrolling in the right educational institution that provides  opportunities for externships for medical students could turn out to be the game-changer in your professional life. At American Career College, we understand that externships and clinical rotations are an important factor in a student’s success in the healthcare field. To learn more, contact us today.

ACC cannot guarantee employment.

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