Nursing Externships and Service Learning (page 2)
Nursing externships increase students' competence and clinical competency. Students work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse, observing and participating in a variety of clinical experiences, often in the clinical specialty of the student's choice. Externships typically take place over the summer, usually between junior and senior year in BSN programs, unrelated to the student's nursing program, and at a facility of the student's choice.
Externships provide several advantages. Most run on 12-hour shifts, offer individualized orientation programs and ongoing educational offerings, and allow students to experience the nursing specialty they hope to practice. Externships pay competitive salaries, providing students with income to use for college costs, save for the future, or use for fun money, and they create a comfort zone that minimizes the reality shock that often occurs when going from student to nurse. Most importantly, externships are career builders. Students frequently obtain preferred employment at their place of externship. Those who choose to work elsewhere have the advantage of enhanced experience, increasing their chances of getting the job they want.
Externships are very competitive. They require that students have completed most of their nursing courses with a strong GPA. Students must submit an application, as well as an essay, resume, transcript, and letters of reference from two or three of their nursing faculty. If you're interested in an externship, start looking well before you plan to begin. Contact your hospitals of interest and ask what they have to offer. Talk to your instructors, as they often know what externships are available, and get your application packet ready by early spring of your junior year.
Service learning unites community service with learning objectives to create an activity that will change both the recipient and the provider of the service. Some nursing programs mandate that nursing students complete 10 to 20 hours of service learning each year. These hours are in addition to your clinical practicum hours, but still constitute part of your coursework because the service activities connect to course objectives. Students usually write journals or logs describing their experiences, goal attainment, and feelings, and they share this information with the class.
While service learning may just seem like busy work or forced volunteering, it has considerable advantages. The most important two are gaining resume experience and enriching your life. Experiences include working in soup kitchens, day care centers, prisons, and long-term care. Some students work with established organizations like the Red Cross or Habitat for Humanity, while others save their hours to work during spring break in a needy country or part of the United States. No matter where you serve, you learn something related to nursing, such as assessing for health risk factors or learning how to care for profoundly disabled children.
You Can Do It! by Paige Reynolds
As I begin my last semester of my fourth and final year as a nursing student, I look back and truly have no regrets regarding my career choice. From the beginning I knew nursing was what I wanted, and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything stand in my way. Throughout my first year of college I remained on a waiting list for the nursing program. I worked diligently with determination to do well in my classes and prove that I deserved to be in the nursing program. At the end of my first year I was told that, because of my SAT scores, there was no way I would be admitted to the nursing program. At that point I was willing to leave my first-choice school and continue my career in nursing elsewhere. During the second week of summer I received an e-mail congratulating me on my acceptance into the nursing program. I was ecstatic! I will never forget that day—rereading that e-mail two times over before calling my parents with the amazing news. My hard work and drive to succeed finally paid off.
From that point on, I knew college was going to become more challenging, and I was ready to take it head-on. Throughout my following years as a nursing major I learned more than I ever thought I could, and the best part was that I enjoyed doing it. The major demanded hours upon hours of studying and hard work and as junior year came to an end I was struggling quite a bit. I was determined to get past the finals and continue on to my senior year, and so I did. I knew I needed help with reading and made sure I sought out the right people and received the help that I needed. After reading specialist and psychologist appointments, I finally understood why I was struggling. At the age of 21 and about to enter my senior year of college, I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). I was told that my whole life I had compensated for this and I finally hit a point where it was all too much to take on myself.
Since then I have done my absolute best in academics and couldn't be happier. Becoming a nurse has had its rewarding highs and its lowest of lows, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I believe nursing is one of the most rewarding careers, which is why I love what I do. In nursing it's the little things that can change a patient's view on life, or even just for that day, and it's an amazing feeling to be able to do that. I have had a good number of patients tell me that just by the care that I give them and my mannerisms they can tell that I will go far in my career and become a wonderful nurse. You will never know the satisfaction of just those few words coming from a stranger, until you experience it yourself.
All in all I leave you with a few words of advice. Never let anyone or anything get in your way or tell you you're not smart enough to become a nurse. If it's what you want, then go for it, and don't stop until you're there. Don't be afraid to seek help, because everyone can use it from time to time. Remember, the books, readings, and tests are just one part of nursing. The other half I believe is the most important, the care of patients. If you have the work ethic and determination to succeed, then you will. Just remember to keep your heart in it as well, because without that, you won't get the rewarding satisfaction of touching the hearts of millions of lives throughout your career.
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