Nursing Internships and Practicums

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated April 1, 2024
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Nursing internships and practicums can help build connections and lead to a successful career. Find out what to expect and where to find the right one for you.
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Nursing internships and practicums provide nursing students with real-world experience that can help their future careers. Internships and practicums take place at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities near students’ schools or, particularly for online learners, their homes.

Nursing Internships versus Clinical Practicums

Both internships and practicums offer clinical training and a hands-on preview of direct patient care. Interns work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN), learning entry-level nursing skills in a safe environment. Students may intern in the summer, typically during 10-week blocks, or during the school year.

However, internships are usually independent of school requirements and not supervised by faculty. Internship hours do not often count toward clinical requirements for bachelor of science in nursing students which can total 800-1,000 hours. Rather, interns are typically paid and considered an employee of the healthcare practice.

A practicum is a required part of nursing schools and usually paired with a seminar or theory component.

Practicums also involve supervision by an RN but are often supervised by a faculty member too. Tasks tend to be more academically oriented. Practicum hours vary but the time commitments are less than in clinical internships. Practicums are not paid, but the hours will count toward required clinical hours.

What to Expect From Your Nursing Internship or Practicum

Nursing internships and practicums offer different types of experiences within the nursing career. Interns may provide more patient care under supervision. Practicum learners might observe more while assisting healthcare professionals.

Internship and Practicum Experience

Clinical interns take care of real patients in real medical facilities under an assigned preceptor. Their daily duties can include evaluating patients’ conditions, administering medication, and assisting patients with bathing, dressing, and eating. Patients may be wary of a student nurse, so students must set them at ease.

Practicums often focus on support tasks, such as updating patients’ charts, along with watching nurses’ interactions with their patients. Students shadow a nurse or other healthcare mentor and also receive guidance from their professors.

Practicum components may include lab work, classroom learning, and clinical observation. The goal of practicums is to apply theory to the workplace. Students sometimes struggle to complete their practicum hours while juggling other courses and clinical hours.

Work Settings

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 doctors’ offices. Nursing schools help place students 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.

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Benefits of a Nursing Internship or Practicum

Nursing internships and practicums offer an inside look at the life of a nurse with the chance to assist and observe. They can also lead to connections and recommendations for jobs after nurse graduation. Finally, these experiences provide the hands-on training that nurses will need to succeed on the job.

Where to Find Nursing Internships

There are several ways of finding nursing internships, including summer nursing internships. Below are a few starting points:

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    Your School’s Career Center

    College career centers maintain nursing internship listings to help students fulfill their required credits. They can also assist students with interviewing and job application skills.
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    Job Fairs

    Employers send recruiters to job fairs to meet students who are looking for jobs or internships. Some job fairs and nurse recruiters focus on just the healthcare industry.
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    Recruiting Events

    When an employer is seeking new employees or has internship openings, they may hold recruiting events to reach out to interested students.
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    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.
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    Job Boards and Internship Databases

    Many professional organizations have 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 Job Board

    ANA offers student members a variety of resources, including job board listings for nursing student internships around the United States.
  • International Medical Aid Internships

    IMA is a nonprofit providing internships in regions around the world that strongly need medical personnel, such as East Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. Student nurses can gain valuable work experience while also helping people in these underserved areas.
  • Nurse in Washington Internship

    The NIWI conference offers an introduction to the legislative process. The event covers issues impacting nurses and healthcare. Topics focus on becoming effective advocates. The conference takes place over a weekend in the Washington, D.C., area.
  • Work the World

    Offering nursing internships in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, Work the World customizes experiences abroad according to participants’ interests. Interns complete voluntary rotations in hospitals in developing countries and learn about the healthcare challenges they face.
  • OSHA’s Graduate Nurse Internship Program

    This internship is available to RNs who are pursuing graduate degrees in public or occupational health nursing. It emphasizes applying theory to government-funded projects.
  • Chegg Internships

    Chegg Internships specializes in helping college students and young professionals find internships across different fields, including nursing. Students can search by location, company, employer type, and paid versus unpaid opportunities.
  • WayUp

    WayUp is a site dedicated to helping college students and recent graduates find opportunities in many industries, like nursing. WayUp allows seekers to search for internships by location and other criteria.

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