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February 2011, Volume 41 Number 2 , p 9 - 10


  • Lauren Mang SN


NURSE EXTERNSHIPS can open the door to real-life situational learning. Nurse externships are educational programs that take place over the summer so nursing students can gain experience.1 All the lectures and assignments in nursing school can't compare with the application of theory that externships offer. I learned from my professors and peers that externships are excellent for bridging the gap between classroom theory and clinical practice.In this article, I'll tell you about how I got an externship, what the experience was like, and the benefits I gained. (See 8 tips for success.)I spent 8 weeks as a nurse extern at the side of a nurse preceptor on the trauma unit of Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J. Since 2001, 439 externs have gone through the nurse externship program at Cooper University Hospital, which hires about half of them after graduation, according to one of the hospital's clinical educators.Not only did I get a lesson in experiential learning from the hospital's talented staff, but I met my personal goal of increasing my knowledge base to enhance classroom learning during my senior year. I anticipated that with this additional experience, I could achieve higher exam scores throughout my senior year and improve my performance on the NCLEX exam. Research shows a statistically significant difference in the NCLEX-RN pass rates of first-time candidates who've participated in nursing student extern programs and those who didn't.2Externships are fairly easy to find because many hospitals across the United States offer them.3 I researched the hospitals near my home by looking up their web pages to determine which ones offered externship programs. I'd already learned that I didn't need a sponsor to apply for an externship and that I could apply for any nurse extern position that was offered.To make the most of my time, I knew I wanted to work in a department that would maximize my learning in an 8-week span. Knowing that I was most interested in trauma,

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