What is a summer nurse externship REALLY like?

As a nursing undergraduate student (or prospective student), you have probably heard about summer nurse externship programs before. But what are they really like and how do you find them? I had the same questions as I went through the process last year and completed my externship over the summer, so keep reading to learn more!

The search process

During my junior year, I knew a lot of senior nursing students who had done an externship the previous summer; they shared their experiences with us and told us that a lot of applications opened in January. This was helpful information, but during my search, I realized that sometimes the dates change from year to year, so it’s really important to keep an eye on the hiring website! I also recommend following hospitals of interest on LinkedIn and attending events like NYC Connect that can help you connect with recruiters and learn more about opportunities. I attended the NYC Connect visits last winter and knew I wanted to apply for an externship with NYU Langone in Manhattan.

Once the job application opened up, I applied with my nursing resume and chose to also submit an optional cover letter. A good cover letter can help you stand out from the rest of the applicants by going into detail about your qualifications and connecting your personal values to the facility’s mission, vision, and values! Once I submitted my materials, I heard back from NYU Langone via email a couple of days after I had submitted my application and it was time to schedule my phone interview.

The hiring process

The phone interview was a basic screening call asking me why I was interested in nursing, why I chose NYU, and what would be my top three units that I would want to work in.  It’s so important to have your elevator pitch down before you have your phone interview! Check out the Fleishman Career Center for help crafting your elevator pitch.

The recruiter told me I would hear back from them in a couple weeks to schedule the second interview. My second interview wasn’t until March because there were some delays in the interview process. My second interview was a virtual interview and they asked some behavioral interview questions like “when was a time you had to ask for help?” or “ describe a time when you had to deal with conflict”. Behavioral interview questions are common, but you really want to tailor your responses to show your qualifications for that particular position. Try out the Big Interview platform to help you prepare and practice before the virtual interview!

They also went over my resume with me so make sure you double check your resume before you submit it. I heard back in late March and was offered a position at NYU Langone at Tisch Hospital in Manhattan – they indicated they would give me my official offer letter once I had submitted my transcript and my Basic Life Support (BLS) CPR certification. There were several forms and other paperwork I had to submit before I actually started working in the summer so it’s very important to pay attention to timelines and finish the requirements before any given deadlines.

The externship experience

In June, it was time to officially start my externship! I worked on the 16th floor on a Medicine/Telemetry Floor. We were the only floor with nurses who were trained in using pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) equipment, so we received a lot of pulmonary patients. I usually worked three days a week; the days I traveled into the city, I woke up at 4:30 am and took the bus into Port Authority to arrive at the hospital around 6:45. It was a tough schedule, but certainly helped to prepare me to enter the field where it is very rare to work a typical 9-5 day!

My shifts were 12 hours long and I would start the day by finding my assigned nurse and listening to change of shift report with them. Then I would follow them around for the shift, helping them out where appropriate. I also helped other nurses and Patient Care Technicians (PCT’s) when they needed an extra set of hands. I would end the day by helping give my nurse report to the night shift and I would be back home around 9pm.

Even with the long hours and commute, doing a summer externship is extremely rewarding! You get to practice the skills you have learned in school and become more comfortable and confident in a hospital environment. Some of the skills that I got to practice were setting up primary and secondary lines, doing EKG’s, taking blood sugars, taking vitals, reconstituting medications, turning and positioning patients, charting, wound care, trach care, and doing regular patient care. I also learned a lot just by observing the nurses. I watched them place IV’s, push IV medications, watched blood transfusions,  watched enemas, and even got to see a couple of rapid responses take place! The nurses, PCT’s, and even the clinical instructors who had the summer nursing cohort were so willing to help me learn and answer all my questions! I was also able to create a meaningful relationship with a lot of the patients on my floor, since we had a lot of private rooms and it was really hard to have to say goodbye at the end of my externship.

Tips for securing an externship

I owe a lot of my success in getting this position to the Fleishman Career Center – I was able to get the resources I needed to create a great resume that was tailored especially for nursing students. If you are currently a junior nursing student, I would definitely recommend utilizing the Fleishman Career Center hours that take place right in the Health Sciences Building:

  • Mondays from 1:30-3:30 pm (scheduled appointments)
  • Tuesdays from 1:30-4:00 pm (drop-ins)
  • Thursdays from 1:30-4:00 pm (drop-ins)

Start building your nursing-style resume, learn how to network and make connections, prepare for interviews, and much more! Additionally, I highly recommend creating a LinkedIn account and making connections with recruiters. This can give you a leg up during the application process.

It’s also imporant to note that even if you do not pursue an externship, there are so many other great experiences you can complete over the summer to gain nursing skills! Talk to the Fleishman Career Center or Decker Division of Advising and Academic Excellence to explore alternate options.

By Kaavya Meegada
Kaavya Meegada Nursing student