Jump-start your career: Testing the waters with a learning internship in nursing

If you asked a nurse what they duties they performed for their job, they would probably stare blankly at you and state, "What jobs don't I do?" A nurse is a jack-of-all-trades, someone who manages the patient care and makes the call when the doctor isn't there. The need for nurses has literally never been higher, and although students are entering nursing programs at a record rate, the supply doesn't meet the demand. Once a nurse graduates, she or he has many choices to make, including where to do an internship.

Nurse internships are a way to gain practical knowledge on the job. During an internship, new nurses are able to diagnose patients, assist doctors, get acquainted with medical equipment, and become familiar with drugs used to treat patients. Although going to school for nursing will give you the practical knowledge you need to perform your job, an internship will give you the hands on experience that is necessary to accurately care for patients.

Typically, a nurse internship lasts 14-16 weeks, and during that time the nurse will have hands on experience with patients. Supervised by a senior nurse or mentor, nurse interns will gradually work their way through a set program. Throughout the process, the nursing intern is guided through the many different aspects of the job. Internships are available in many departments of the hospital, including labor and delivery, emergency or acute care, pediatrics, and surgery.

Internships take place both inside and outside the classroom and as a supplement to online nursing degree programs. Instruction is provided in a classroom setting along the way, and at the same time the nurse is given hands on experience in the hospital. The goal is to ease the transition between being a student nurse to gainful employment. As there is such a shortage of nurses in the US right now, stress and fatigue are a large part of the job. It is more important than ever to make graduates entry into the workforce as simple as possible.

Landing an internship requires excellent academic grades and a keen desire to succeed in nursing. A student candidate seeking an internship should begin by researching hospitals of interest and comparing the intern programs. Often the co-op department of the University the student attends provides detailed information on specific nursing internships. Co-op departments can also assist in placement of the student nurse in an internship that would best suit them.

Finding the best internship for you are based on two vital issues: curriculum and support. The internship should cover in detail as many areas of the actual department as possible. Becoming familiar with your area of specialization is vital to your success on the job, and an internship should make you feel comfortable in your choice of department. Support on the job is extremely important. Often new graduates feel as though they are being thrown to the lions when first starting out. The reality of starting the job can come as a huge shock when you pair the learning curve with fatigue and demanding hours. Internships should offer on the job support in the form of a mentor, and encourage feedback and discussion from the new nurse.

If you are interested in obtaining a nursing internship, begin by asking questions of your instructors. Often they will have information on specific internships. Choose a few hospitals that you'd be interested in working in and inquire about their programs. Spend as much time as possible researching various intern opportunities. Your choice can affect your entire future.

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