As you embark on your nursing career, a nurse internship or externship is a great opportunity of which to take advantage.
If there is a particular hospital, health system, or specialty area in which you are very interested, an internship or externship can help you get your foot in the door prior to being eligible for a full-time position. What is the difference between an intern and an extern? That depends on your state and/or the organization offering the internship/externship opportunity.
Experiences During Nursing School
In general, internship and/or externship opportunities are offered to unlicensed nursing students or new graduate nurses. For nursing students who have completed basic clinical requirements, there may be opportunities during the school year, usually internships, to gain more clinical experience and exposure.
As a nursing student, your scope of practice will be limited; depending on the facility, your role may be similar to a nursing assistant or may be shadowing and assisting a licensed nurse. These opportunities tend to be part-time and are usually paid positions.
During the summer, particularly the summer just before your final year of nursing school, many organizations offer temporary positions, typically as a student nurse extern, to continue to practice your clinical skills. In general, these are full-time, paid positions where you will shadow and work alongside a licensed nurse to get a better idea of what this role is like.
Your independent scope will still be limited as an unlicensed student, but you may be delegated additional tasks under the supervision of the nurse with whom you are working. Particularly for competitive specialties or academic health systems, this is one of the best ways to gain an advantage for a full-time position after graduation.
After graduation, but before you have been licensed, some facilities in certain states may offer full-time, paid employment opportunities that may be referred to as an internship, externship, or a residency. These opportunities allow new graduates to begin working while waiting for their license and is a great transition from a student to a licensed nurse.
The new graduates usually have preceptors to help them orient to the role, and their scope of practice will again be limited until they are fully licensed. Similar to a summer externship, this is a great entryway to a competitive position.