The medical field has only continued to grow, and as it has degree programs and jobs have only become more competitive. Medical organizations want graduates who have excellent experience and a strong knowledge base in their given field, and many are even beginning to require advanced education.
This heightened demand for well-trained professionals has made it more important than ever for students to receive as much hands-on experience as possible. Many schools require that students have year-long practicum placements to practice their classroom knowledge in the field. For instance, the degree in radiation therapy at Gwynedd Mercy University offers students the opportunity to gain hands on experience at local medical institutions.
The degree in nursing at University of Kansas requires regular student rotations at various medical facilities. This type of fieldwork prepares students for their careers and gives them a better understanding of what to expect when they become a full-time professional.
If you are looking for additional experience to stand out from classmates, consider securing an internship. An internship can provide you with additional experience, greater networking opportunities, and stronger clinical knowledge. A few tips to help you find the internship you desire include:
Think About Alternatives. If you are interested in pursuing a career in the health care industry, look for an internship at local urgent care or private practice facilities. Hospitals may not always have the time or the patience to deal with interns as most already have fully-scheduled students and residents they are required to train. However, local urgent care offices or smaller family practices may have more time and the resources needed to provide you with more clinically based learning opportunities. Also, think abstractly too. If you are interested in getting an internship in radiology, don’t just look at urgent care or offices that specialize in MRIs only. A local chiropractic clinic may perform x-rays and other medical imaging which could offer a great learning experience. If you are interested in becoming a geriatric nurse, a nursing home isn’t your only option. Adult day cares often need nurses throughout the day to help with care and medication distribution. There are dozens of different types.
Find a Mentor. A mentor isn’t just your immediate boss. A mentor, in fact, is usually a person that you find outside of the place you are working for who can help you identify and achieve your professional goals. Usually these individuals have worked extensively in the field you are interested in, have climbed the ranks, and are well-connected. A good mentor is priceless as they can help you be successful and may even be able to help you find the internship you want through their own connections.
Don’t Reject Volunteering. Because most education programs in the health professions require on-site training, medical internships aren’t always easy to find. If you aren’t finding the internship listings that you want, consider volunteering at a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility. Volunteer opportunities can offer the same kind of hands-on, professional experience you desire simply with a different title.
Create Your Own Opportunities. If you are feeling like you aren’t finding the type of internship you want, consider working with a health organization to make one. Many medical organizations are eager for the help that an intern can provide, however, they simply haven’t take the time to establish a program – especially smaller facilities. If you want to work as a radiologist for athletes and know of a clinic in town that provides services exclusively to athletes, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask what it would take to create an internship program. As long as the facility has a professional willing to supervise you and your school is willing to accept the placement, you will essentially be able to design your own internship to suit your professional goals.
Go Abroad. The United States isn’t the only place to get more medical hands-on experience. Depending on where you are in your level of education, you can work alongside healthcare professionals in various countries throughout the world. Because these internship opportunities are often located in areas with limited resources, you will gain excellent experience learning to provide care on a minimal budget in a stressful situation. These internship placements are also typically more active in the community, and you will learn more about public health and community relations which are great skills to have as the healthcare industry moves more towards a preventative care model.
An internship isn’t just important so that you can have additional experience to put on your resume or application. An internship is also important, if not moreso, because it allows you the opportunity to determine if the current path you are taking is the right one for you. By having real work experience you are able to gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and also acknowledge what you do and do not like within the field of medicine. This knowledge can also help you decide which career in the medical field is right for you.