Makely (2013), defines an externship as a real-life learning experience obtained through working on-site in a health care facility while enrolled as a student. Educational programs use different terms for the practicum experience, such as clinicals, externship, internship, hands-on experience, and so forth, but these terms all mean basically the same thing.
You may be thinking, “Should I worry about my externship? Isn’t it just another assignment to complete before I can graduate?” In reality, Makely states, your practicum is much more than just another assignment. In fact, it’s probably the most important part of your education. Your practicum is an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired during the classroom (or online) portion of your training in an actual health care setting while still a student. If you perform well, your practicum could also result in an employment recommendation or a job offer when you graduate.
Your performance during your practicum will be evaluated based on criteria established by your educational program. You will likely receive a grade based on your attendance, attitude, appearance, and overall performance so it’s important to do your best. The employees who work at the site know that you’re a student. They expect you to be a little bit nervous at first and won’t hold you accountable for knowing everything when you start. But if it’s clear that you haven’t been well trained before starting your practicum, your deficiencies will become apparent pretty quickly. Feel free to ask questions and show an interest in what goes on at the site but don’t ask the same question repeatedly Remember the answer and jot it down on a small, pocket notepad.