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Campus Corner: Paid Internships/Externships?

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Stephanie Thibeault, RN, BSN and author responds:

Hi Kameisha,

Great question–thanks for sending it in! While requirements vary from one facility to the next, completion of your medical-surgical clinical rotation and coursework is generally required before you can be hired as a student nurse intern or extern. With that in mind, there is often confusion about exactly which course and clinical rotation qualifies as “med-surg.” That, I believe, is at the heart of your debate with your cousin.

The “basics” course you take in your first semester of nursing school, often called “Foundations of Nursing” or some other nebulous title, includes clinicals on medical-surgical units, and basic medical-surgical coursework. That said, it is not the official med-surg course. It is a foundational course that will give you basic skills and knowledge to build on in your pediatrics, mental health, adult health, labor and delivery, community and critical care nursing courses.

In your second semester (or sometimes your third), you will take a course called “Caring for Adults with Alterations in Health” (or something similar). THIS is the med-surg course you are required to complete before applying for an internship or externship. It focuses on adult medical-surgical care exclusively and allows you to refine the nursing skills learned in your first semester.

Do you have to wait an entire year before having a paid job while in school? Absolutely not! If you are looking to gain experience and earn an income while in school, but have not yet met the requirements for an internship or externship, there are a variety of alternative positions you can pursue, including:

  • Patient care technician
  • Certified nurse assistant
  • Unit secretary

These positions will give you valuable learning experiences, exposure to the work setting, and a decent income. Equally important, it will allow you to develop a positive working relationship with an employer who will be looking to hire nurses when you graduate.

Good luck to you, Kameisha–I wish you the best as you complete your education and embark on a career in nursing!

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