Internship vs. Externship: What Is The Difference?

Last updated Dec 18, 2021 | Published on Dec 20, 2021

Medical internships and externships are great opportunities to gain experience in the medical field. These programs can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year and provide you with valuable knowledge of healthcare practices. However, the major difference between these two programs is that an internship is supervised by licensed physicians and other healthcare professionals, while an externship does not generally involve supervision.

Table of Contents

  • What Is An Externship?
  • Benefits Of An Externship
  • What Is An Internship?
  • Benefits Of An Internship
  • Externship vs. Internship
  • Preparing For An Internship Or Externship Program
  • How To Find The Right Program

What Is An Externship?

Externships are short-term, unpaid, job training programs with learning and educational experiences that can last anywhere from one day to six weeks. They give curious students and trainees a look into the real-world workplace by allowing them to shadow the staff members, observe a job site, or volunteer for a short period. You can practice skills and demonstrate knowledge under the supervision of experienced staff in a real-world scenario.

Graduate externships are often involved in a wide range of patient care activities. Depending on the duration of your externship, you may have the opportunity to learn from multiple attendings in different specialties, write or create SOAP and progress notes, learn EMR systems, engage in team diagnosing meetings, teaching rounds, medical scribing, and many more. Upon completing a clinical externship, you may likely have more tools necessary to successfully interview and match.

Benefits Of An Externship

Externships offer students and graduates a unique opportunity to exhibit what they’ve learned in a real-world job setting, as well as a chance to discover whether the profession or discipline they’re interested in is a suitable fit for them.

Some great benefits of externing are:

1. Hands-On Experience in Real-World

There is no doubt that you have spent an enormous amount of time in the classroom and a laboratory setting learning about your career choice, but the real world is quite different. You will get an opportunity to work with patients in a real clinical setting as part of an externship. You will also gain experience working with a supervisor as you share your training with coworkers and patients.

2. Workplace Experience

You can find medical careers in a wide range of healthcare settings. You could work in a busy outpatient center, a small physician’s office, a specialist office, a large hospital, or a busy outpatient facility. Your externship will put you in the middle of such situations, giving you a taste of the various components of your chosen healthcare profession. It is quite useful since it allows you to get a sense of where you want to work. You’ll be able to figure out whether you’d be better off working in a large organization/hospital or a smaller office setting.

3. Mental Preparation

You may have mastered all of the technical skills required for your chosen career, but one of the most important aspects of externing is to provide you with the mental preparation required to work in your chosen career field. Not only will you gain communication skills and hands-on experience, but you will also gain the confidence needed to complete the job successfully.

Mental confidence is also a reflection of walking into a job interview and landing the job. Your actions will help you advance in your career. You should always maintain a professional demeanor and treat your coworkers and patients respectfully. As a team member, you will be required to arrive on time, keep a professional appearance, and take your work seriously.

4. Competency Skills

While externing, it would be best to put your talents to the test. Your technical skills are crucial in demonstrating your capacity to function in a real-world setting. You’ll probably know what your new job expects of you, and you’ll be able to put your abilities to use on your externship in scenarios that aren’t quite like those in the classroom. You will also be supervised and guided by expert personnel while shadowing in your healthcare facility.

5. Acquire Knowledge through Experts in the Field

Externships in healthcare careers are an excellent way to obtain valuable advice from supervisors and instructors. You will benefit from a new approach to learning from experienced individuals who will work alongside you. Remember that your externship is an opportunity to learn about how a real-life healthcare facility operates. You will also need to understand the protocols and follow them appropriately.

Communication with coworkers and supervisors is essential. You should inquire about how they got their start, how they got their first job, and if they have any advice to offer. You will also be given tips on interacting with patients and communicating more effectively with your coworkers. In such cases, your supervisor will usually tell you how you’re doing and advise you how to improve. Your externship is a fantastic opportunity to learn from those around you.

6. Job Insight

While many people know what career they want to pursue and stay focused on it even after an externship, others may find that the opportunity to participate in an on-the-employment shadow career reveals that their future job is not what they thought. Externships give students a glimpse into their professional future.

What Is An Internship?

An internship is a supervised program that provides you with the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals. Internships usually last for one year and involve rotations in different medical specialties. You will gain experience in a clinical setting and learn about day-to-day operations.

Benefits Of An Internship

Pupils who complete internships are more likely to find a full-time job after graduation, and it’s easy to understand why! Because they are entering the job market with extensive on-the-job experience, these students have an advantage over their peers.

Other advantages of internships include:

  • Most internships are paid, and unpaid internships are becoming less popular.
  • They may allow you to earn college credit. Many postsecondary and graduate programs necessitate students to participate in an internship, which might assist you in meeting your requirements.
  • They’re more comprehensive than externships, so you’ll learn a lot more and gain much more benefits, ensuring a smooth transition into the field.
  • They might even lead to a job. When you work for an organization for several months, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and network with established experts, which could lead to a job in the future.
  • It is used to fulfill training requirements. You may be required to log some clinical or training hours as part of your program, and your internship may count toward those hours.

Externship vs. Internship

Externship and internship programs give valuable clinical experiences and information on what it’s like to work in a healthcare organization. The below chart provides distinguishing characteristics of the two programs.

  Internship Externship
Duration Few weeks to a yearShort in duration, a few days to few weeks
WagePay stipend, salary, or hourly wage

Unpaid
AgreementMust enter into an employment agreementNo employment agreement
Job DutiesAssigned specific job duties and responsibilitiesShadow a supervisor, mentor, or experienced people
TasksMust complete projects and tasks independentlyGenerally, not given any assignments or projects
ExposureMostly confined to one departmentMay get to meet a wide range of people and departments within the organization
Future OpportunityMay lead to a full-time opportunityHelp identify areas they may fit in

The purpose of an internship or externship program is to give you first-hand insight into the healthcare sector or career. It provides you an opportunity to explore new career domains, gain professional work experience, develop non-clinical competencies, improve your skill sets, and navigate through different domains of your career that you can add to your resume.

Listing your internship or externship experiences is a great way for employers to see your first-hand experience in the field and propel your professional experience.

Preparing For An Internship Or Externship Program

What you learn during your internship or externship program may help you get hired. Hence, making a note of important things or experiences in a notebook will help you recall the knowledge you receive from working throughout the day and shadowing your supervisors and provide you with something to go to when you have questions. The notes will also assist you in formulating questions to ask. Even after completing your program, you may find your notes useful later in your career.

During your internship or externship, learn everything you can. It’s a good time to push yourself further by doing more work and even cross-training in different field areas. It is an excellent chance to stretch your wings and gain as much knowledge as possible.

Being attentive and asking numerous questions may help you learn about the subject. Many students wrongly feel that asking too many questions will annoy their supervisors and coworkers, but this is not the case. These programs are offered by facilities that believe in the importance of teaching the next generation of tomorrow’s workforce. It’ll pay off when you’re ready to start looking for a job. Those same folks may remember your name and play a key role in helping you land the job you want.

How To Find The Right Program

It is crucial to consider your goals and objectives when finding the right medical internship or externship for you. Are you looking for a career change? Or are you hoping to gain more experience to eventually pursue a specialty?

First, you can start finding internship and externship opportunities through your college or university career services that fit your needs. You may find paid and unpaid positions, formal programs, and access to the alumni career networking database.

The best way to find an internship or externship that meets your needs is to do some research. The Internet is an excellent resource to uncover information on internships and externships and reviews from previous participants. Job sites such as “Handshake, LinkedIn” offer internship and externship programs that might match your career interests. You may also contact local hospitals or clinics to see if they offer internship or externship programs.

Whatever you decide, ensure you do your homework and ask plenty of questions before committing. The experience of an internship or externship can be invaluable, but it is important to do what’s best for you.

The Way Forward

Internships and externships are often a great first step for those looking to get their foot in the door of the medical profession. When choosing an internship or externship, it is important to consider your goals and objectives. Do extensive research and ask plenty of questions before committing. The experience you gain from an internship or externship can be invaluable.

Grab every opportunity you come across to experience real-life work in the healthcare sector. To ensure that you don’t waste too much time in the wrong field, consider externing early in your studies and then interning later.

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