Gain hands-on experience from a supportive and experienced team through Penn State Health’s Nurse Externship Program. This 10-week paid program is offered at Penn State Health medical centers from May through July.
Work 1:1 alongside a Registered Nurse preceptor who will help you explore a clinical placement that aligns with your passion while learning the skills you need for your next role in nursing. Externship features:
- 10-week program from May – July
- Up to two-week orientation with both classroom and clinical components
- Pay for up to 40 hours per week
- Day and night shifts for the broadest range of hospital experience
- Job shadowing in other care areas
- A focus on specific nursing procedures, including basic bedside care skills (safety and hygiene), how to document vital signs and how to handle patient admissions and discharges
The clinical units
You may have the opportunity to work on the following units:
- Adult Acute Care
- Including Penn State Cancer Institute (inpatient)*
- Adult Intensive Care
- Adult Intermediate Care
- Behavioral Health**
- Cardiac Special Care and Cardiovascular
- Children’s Hospital ICU*
- Children’s Hospital Acute Care*
- Emergency Department
- Perioperative Orientation Course (operating room)
- Pediatric Progressive Care*
- Pediatric Surgical Care Unit*
- Pediatric Hematology/Oncology*
- Pediatric Perianesthesia*
- Pediatric Emergency Department*
- Women’s Health
*Available only at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
**Available only at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center
***Available at Penn State Health Hampden, Holy Spirit and St. Joseph medical centers
The career opportunities
Where you begin your nursing journey greatly affects where that journey takes you. Our nurse externship program will get you off to a great start.
More than half of our nurse externs return for additional experience, either a second year of externship or employment with Penn State Health.
Penn State Health’s Nurse Externship Program can be a preparatory step for a Graduate Nurse Residency. Anyone interested in a residency is strongly encouraged to participate in an externship.
The educational requirements
Penn State Health’s Nurse Extern Program is open to all nursing students with one clinical rotation. Graduation within one year of application is required for Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center nurse externs
- Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, PA
- Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center, Enola, PA
- Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center, Camp Hill, PA
- Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center, Lancaster, PA
- Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, Reading, PA
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can the nurse extern perform 1:1 sitter duties?
A: Yes. If all other resources are exhausted, the nurse extern can sit the 1:1. Expectations are that the nurse extern would sit for no longer than four hours and be rotated out and return to duties with an assigned RN.
Q: Can the nurse extern participate in sterile procedures such as Foley catheter insertion or central line dressing change?
A: The nurse extern can be an additional set of hands but is not trained in sterile techniques and therefore cannot be the second caregiver. We encourage the nurse extern to participate and assist outside of the sterile field. The nurse extern is not permitted to draw labs from central venous access devices.
Q: Do vital signs or routine care items need to be co-signed by the preceptor?
A: No. The nurse extern will be trained and therefore able to document independently. The nurse extern should immediately report any abnormal findings to the RN.
Q: Can the nurse extern document physical assessment findings under her or his own name?
A: No. The preceptor and nurse extern can discuss physical assessment findings for learning purposes.
Q: Can the nurse extern draw blood peripherally?
A: Yes, with proper instruction and oversight, the extern may draw labs.
Q: What is a nurse extern not allowed to do?
A: The nurse extern cannot:
- Document physical assessments
- Administer medication
- Perform sterile procedures
- Perform procedures independently
What our grads have to say
“The biggest benefits of the Nurse Externship Program were making friends, creating connections, enhancing my hands-on-skills and developing more confidence in my ability to talk to and care for patients.”
— Brianna Hertz, nursing assistant, Emergency Room, Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center
“Being able to have 1-to-1 training from a nurse was amazing … I love my job here because of the kind staff who make the work experience wonderful, even if you’re having a rough day.” — Hayli Starr, personal care assistant, medical/surgical, Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center
“I learned so much about how a hospital actually functions in those 10 weeks. The externship also gave me a sense of how supported nurses are at Penn State Health.” — Tyler Wilkinson, RN, pediatric surgical care, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital
“The most important benefit came from learning from and observing the staff team, building knowledge and receiving great insight and advice.” — Shannon Fisher, nursing assistant, Emergency Room, Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center
Our commitment to diversity
Penn State Health is fundamentally committed to the diversity of our faculty and staff. We believe diversity is unapologetically expressing itself through every person's perspectives and lived experiences. We are an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, color, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status and family medical or genetic information.