Internships and Practicums

Most nursing programs require students to complete an internship or practicum in a medical setting, which allows nursing students to gain practical experience and observe seasoned professionals on the job. This helps students transition into the professional world after they complete their nursing degree. Both internships and practicums accomplish similar goals, but they do have their differences.

Nursing practicums require fewer hours than internships, and have more of an academic focus. Practicums center less around direct, hands-on experience with patients, and more on helping with support tasks. Registered nurses supervise students in nursing practicums, and professors oversee them. Practicum students might help record medical information on patient charts, and observe while nurses interact with patients. They also receive academic credit for an approved practicum, but earn little to no pay.

Internships, on the other hand, offer hands-on, clinical training that offers students a true taste of what nurses do. Internships provide the practical experience nurses need to get an entry-level job after graduation, and they require a time commitment that’s similar to a part-time job. Registered nurses (RNs) closely monitor interns, but interns still interact directly with patients, performing the basic patient care tasks that an entry-level nurse would, such as evaluating patient conditions. Nursing internships are often paid, and can be a good source for connections and professional recommendations.

What to Expect From Your Nursing Internship or Practicum

What Will I Do for My Nursing Internship or Practicum?

In nursing practicums, students are supervised by a registered nurse who serves as their mentor. Practicum students help with paperwork and other supportive duties, and while their work doesn’t include hands-on patient care, they do have chances to observe working nurses as they care for patients.

Nursing student internships include more responsibility than practicums, since they require direct patient care. Tasks include feeding and dressing patients, administering medication, assisting with tests and procedures, and helping develop and implement patient care plans. Interns work with the nursing staff in a clinical setting, and are closely supervised by a registered nurse who monitors and reports their progress to their nursing school.

In Which Type of Setting Will I Work?

Nursing student internships and practicums take place in a healthcare setting, where students can gain the experience they need to succeed in their future careers. Potential internship settings include hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and doctor’s offices. Students’ nursing schools help place them in an internship or practicum environment that suits their academic needs and career goals. Online nursing schools can help students find approved internships or practicums located close enough for a practical commute.

How Long Will My Internship or Practicum Last?

The number of hours required to complete nursing internships or practicums varies depending on the type of program and degree level the student is pursuing. Internships generally require more hours per week, similar to a part-time job.

Duke University’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing is a 16-month program that includes 58 credit hours and more than 800 hours of clinical experience. University of Pittsburgh’s comparable accelerated second degree BSN program lasts three semesters and requires 960 clinical hours.

Each internship and practicum program has its own individual requirements, so students should research closely to choose the one that’s right for them.

Will I Get Paid for My Nursing Internship or Practicum?

In most cases, practicums don’t pay because they are academically focused and supervised by professors and nurses. Internships may offer a nominal stipend or hourly wage for the student’s work, but not all of them do.

Will I Get Academic Credit for My Internship or Practicum?

Students who are required to complete a practicum or an internship as part of their degree program should receive academic credit for their work. In many cases, a practicum includes specific assignments or projects, such as a capstone project, which participating students must complete. Interns also receive academic credit, since internships usually fulfill a degree requirement.

How Will My Nursing Internship or Practicum Help Me?

Practicums and internships helps students improve their self-discipline skills, preparing them to complete tasks in the workplace and successfully hold down a job. These positions also help students hone their interpersonal skills by providing them the opportunity to work with nursing staff and other healthcare professionals.

Practicums and internships provide first-hand experiences that the classroom cannot offer. Students may practice techniques for administering medication or drawing blood in a classroom, but it’s completely different to perform these tasks for a real patient who may be ill, anxious, or in pain. These students also get a chance to work in different specialties, so they may find there’s an area of medicine they especially prefer, or ones they don’t like. This knowledge, plus the professional connections and recommendations students can gain in the process, are especially helpful in transitioning from the academic world to the workforce after graduation.

Where to Find Nursing Internships

There are several methods of finding nursing internships, including summer nursing internships. Below are a few options which can provide a starting point for your research:

  • Your School’s Career Center: College career centers maintain listings of nursing internships to help students fulfill their required credits. They can also assist students with the skills they need to apply and interview for internships.
  • Job Fairs: Employers send recruiters to job fairs to meet with students who are looking for jobs or internships. Some job fairs focus on particular industries, including healthcare.
  • Recruiting Events: When an employer is seeking new employees, or has internship openings, they may hold recruiting events to help inform interested students.
  • Alumni Network: Nursing school alumni networks give students a way to meet other nurses who graduated from the same school and want to help fellow alumni. They may share information about internships or provide personal recommendations.
  • Job Boards and Internship Databases: Many professional organizations maintain job boards and internship databases to keep members updated on available opportunities. Most of these resources are available online.

Nursing Internship Opportunities

  • American Nurses Association (ANA) Job Board: The ANA offers student memberships a variety of resources, including job board listings for nursing student internships around the United States.
  • Indeed.com: Indeed.com features listings for nursing student internships in healthcare facilities in your area. You can search by keyword and location, as well as filter by job type so results only include internship opportunities.
  • International Medical Aid (IMA) Internships: IMA is a nonprofit providing internships in regions around the world that strongly need medical personnel, such as in East Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. Student nurses can gain valuable work experience, while also helping people in these underserved areas.
  • Internships.com: Internships.com specializes in helping college students and young professionals find internships in a variety of fields, including nursing. Students can search by location, company, employer type, and paid vs. unpaid opportunities.
  • WayUp.com: WayUp is a site dedicated to helping college students and recent graduates find opportunities in a wide variety of industries, including nursing. WayUp allows you to search for internships by location and other criteria.
  • ZipRecruiter.com: ZipRecruiter helps job-seekers for finding nursing internships in their area. They can search by location, company, salary, and keyword, which may help narrow down internships to certain specialties.

Resources

  • American Nurses Association Student Membership: The ANA offers free student memberships, which provide access to a number of resources, including digital journals, an online community, and a job board.
  • National Student Nurses Association (NSNA): The NSNA focuses specifically on issues facing student nurses. Membership benefits include educational events, publications, professional liability insurance, health insurance marketplace access, and NCLEX test preparation resources.
  • Nursing and Allied Health Resources Wiki: Curated by members of the Medical Library Association, this database of healthcare-related publications includes digital books, journals, and other web-based resources related to nursing and health professions.