The Importance of Nursing Internships

Nursing internships offer aspiring nurses hands-on clinical experience with patient care, while fostering professionalism, creating networking opportunities, and developing clinical knowledge.

First, future nurses need the foundational education that comes from undergraduate nursing programs. Academic programs provide numerous courses and labs that cover topics such as HIPAA regulations and clinical and scientific techniques. Beyond the classroom, nursing internships can bring that learning to life and provide unique preparation.

To qualify for a nursing internship program, you must first apply and meet certain requirements, such as being actively enrolled in a nursing program. Internships are usually paid (although some may be unpaid) and may have a minimum number of hours the intern is required to work per week.

Internships allow nursing students to acquire clinical knowledge under the supervision of experienced nursing professionals, working alongside them as they care for and interact with patients.

One-on-one clinical experiences

Nurse interns are paired with a preceptor who shares personal and professional knowledge. This partnership will create learning experiences with each clinical encounter you have. As learning opportunities arise, preceptors will try to get you involved in some way or allow you to observe.

An internship helps familiarize a student nurse with day-to-day aspects of clinical settings.

“It also helps them to see the politics of healthcare, how processes like policies and procedures are managed — small things that you won’t necessarily get in a book,” said Ottamissiah “Missy” Moore, BS, RN, WCC, DWC, CHPN, CAEd, a nurse educator, preceptor, and mentor based in Washington, D.C.

Confidence in the clinical setting

Ottamissiah Moore, RN

Internships give you the opportunity to practice and perfect clinical skills. As you learn and repeat each skill, you can gain proficiency while expanding your knowledge and enhancing your confidence. For example, you may have just learned how to use an infusion pump. Your preceptor may have you stay on that unit until you’ve mastered that task. Nurse preceptors may even allow you to perform certain procedures that you’ve practiced only in the skills lab.

Moore, who has 36 years of nursing experience and has worked as a preceptor and mentor for student nurses for 15 years, added that internships also provide experience in accountability and responsibility.

“When you’re in an internship, you’re actually providing care and management of patients,” she said. “You have someone who has oversight of you, but it’s a shift in the accountability and responsibility of what you need to do. As a student, you’re learning. But as an intern, you’re still learning, but you’re also getting paid to care for the patient.”

Network and interprofessional collaboration

During a nursing internship, you’ll learn to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team. You’ll be able to give reports, join huddles, and work alongside healthcare professionals like physicians and occupational therapists.

Working with a broader healthcare team will provide you with a greater understanding of each profession’s roles and responsibilities. This type of teamwork can also enhance your own skill set — both clinical skills and soft skills.

A study on interprofessional collaboration with nurse educators and medical interns …read more

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