Externships can prompt a lot of questions for students. Where should I go, when do I start looking, how many should I do, where will I stay? Here are a few pieces of advice that I have been given for these questions:
- Quality over quantity.
Some students want to spend 2 weeks at several different places to try to get a range of experiences. However, it may be advantageous to spend a longer period at a smaller number of places. Spending anywhere from 4-6 weeks at one practice gives you time to gain a valuable mentorship, see how things are run, and become comfortable. It gives you time to get to know the employees and for them to get to know you. Having a longer stretch of time for employees to get to know your personality and work ethic can be important when it comes time to find or job, or if you ever need a reference for something like internships or a residency.
An important thing to think about early on, is do they offer housing? Some places might, but the majority will not. If they don’t, ask if they recommend any places and if they have had externs in the past, where have they stayed. Some locations may have employees that offer places to stay, while others may know of extended stay hotels, etc. It is a good idea to think about how you will pay for these externships. There are several externship scholarships, such as through the AVMA. It never hurts to start budgeting and saving early on, especially while you may have summers available to work before your clinical years start.
If you’re like me you have questions on when to start planning and where you should go. There are an endless number of places that you can go, anywhere from private practice, non-profit organizations, government facilities and more depending on what you are interested in. There are some great resources that you can use to locate different externships if you are having trouble finding something or if you want to look into something different. The AVMA has an excellent resource that you can select your area of interest and you even have the choice to select a state which is helpful for those who may not be able to go far. If you have mentors or advisers, you can also try reaching out to them to see if they are aware of any places where you can extern and maybe they will put in a good word for you. Depending on when you have clinics it is beneficial to start contacting people early, especially if your area of interest is competitive. For me, I will start contacting people during the spring and summer of 2019 for my clinical year in 2020-2021. It doesn’t hurt to be on top of things and put your name in people’s ear!
It’s never to early to start thinking about externships to take during your clinical years. Reach out to those who have done them before for advice to help you get the most out of your experiences as possible.