Now is the time for nursing students to start researching and applying for summer internships. Peers and classmates who have participated in internships may tell you they offer experiences and knowledge you may not get in your clinicals or through classroom lectures, and they’re right. In school, you probably will not witness a patient’s progression of care, while during an internship, you’re likely to observe a more holistic picture of patients as you work alongside a practicing nurse.
For 10 weeks last summer, I had the opportunity to work as a student nurse intern at Roswell Park Cancer Institute on a medical ICU and medical oncology unit. I thought I had an idea of what nursing entailed through my clinical experiences, but my internship helped me understand the depth and breadth of what nursing has to offer. I found that it was one of the best ways to prepare me for my senior year, as well as for my career as a professional nurse, and here’s why:
You get to work one on one with a nurse – Nurses usually volunteer to be preceptors, and they gladly share their know-how, while promoting a safe space for learning. Anytime there is a learning experience on the unit, preceptors will try to get you involved in some way or allow you to observe. At the end of your internship, if you have done well, the nurse preceptor could end up being a great reference for your future job pursuits.
You will gain confidence in the clinical setting – You will have the opportunity to practice and perfect clinical skills. During my internship, I learned how to use an infusion pump and stayed on the unit until I mastered the skill. Nurse preceptors may even allow you to perform certain procedures that you practiced only in the skills lab.
You will practice interprofessional collaboration skills – During my internship, I had the opportunity to give report, join huddles, and work with physical and occupational therapists and pharmacists. Working with a broader healthcare team has helped me to understand each profession’s roles and responsibilities.
It may result in your first nursing job – An internship will, at the very least, allow you to familiarize yourself with the acute care environment. The experience also may help you home in on what specialties and settings interest you.
My internship was called a long-term, 357-hour interview. During your internship, your managers, supervisors and staff will notice your talents and perseverance. They might ask you to come back as soon as you graduate or even work as a nurse’s aide during the school year.
Given the benefits of an internship, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty to write and brag about on your applications. Here are some tips:
• In your clinicals, go above and beyond what is expected of you as a student. Inquire if staff needs assistance or if you can observe during special procedures or patient care. A recommendation from a clinical instructor or nurse preceptor is usually required with an internship application, so make sure your faculty and preceptor are familiar with you and what you’re capable of.
• Know your strengths and weaknesses in the clinical setting. Be ready to explain the details of your clinical experiences on an application and to answer questions about how your patient care has benefited others or how you overcame difficult situations in the clinical setting.
• Teamwork in healthcare is essential. When you are being interviewed, you should talk about your clinical experiences as a member of the healthcare team.
• As a nursing student, it is important that you get involved in your school organization. Participate in community service activities, school improvement committees, school program initiatives or volunteer abroad. And make sure your resume and internship application reflects what you have learned.
I highly recommend you start looking for summer internships right now. Apply to as many as possible to expand your choices. If you are already gainfully employed for the summer, I encourage you to apply for nursing residency programs that are offered upon your graduation.