An externship is an awesome experience and one that isn’t just for veterinary students. Veterinary students do more commonly complete externships, but one of the greatest experience I had while completing my undergraduate was a summer-long externship at an equine hospital.
So what is an externship? An externship is a period of time spent at a clinic learning from practitioners there and working alongside their staff. Externships typically range from 2 weeks to up to an entire summer, depending on the student’s preference. They typically do not pay anything, but many practices will provide housing for students.
So how do you get an externship? Well, if you are a veterinary student, some easy ways to find great places are to ask upper-level students where they have gone and what were good places. Another way to find externships is through online associations. For example, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has a website dedicated just to externships. Attending presentations by practitioners is also a good way to make contacts. If you like what a practitioner has to say, introduce yourself after a presentation, ask if the practice welcomes externs, and get the contact information. I’ve also just gone on Google and started searching for clinics and contacting those that look interesting.
How do you make the contact? When I am contacting a clinic about an externship possibility, I typically start by simply sending an email asking if they allow externs. If they respond with a yes, I then write a brief cover letter with the dates I am available/interested in visiting and include my resume. This may not be necessary with all clinics, but many practitioners appreciate the professionalism.
What to do once you have set up a date? Before you head off to an externship, make sure you confirm whether or not the practice offers you housing, what to wear on a daily basis (scrubs, khakis, coveralls, etc), and if there’s anything you should bring (pillows, towels, bedding, etc). If you ask ahead of time, you won’t show up unprepared.
As a side note, externships are not just for vet students. While it is more challenging to find a clinic that will host a prevet student, it can be done. So be patient, and don’t give up!