Spring Break Edition: Externships
: a person connected with an institution but not living or boarding in it; specifically : a nonresident doctor or medical student at a hospital
Showing up to a different school and being that annoying person asking questions and stalking residents for a week
For those of you who may be interested in specializing, one way to sway you one way or the other is to participate in an externship at a program you may be interested in. (Keep in mind, not all specialties offer externships, and not every school does either). Spending a solid week following residents around can really let you know if it is something you can picture yourself doing.
So, how do you get started?
- Check out programs online to find an externship you are interested in. I did a perio externship, and there is a list of them on Perio.org
- When you find a school/program that you are interested in, contact the program director (their name should be listed with the school information) via email and introduce yourself, ask about dates and further information they may need from you. Try to get the dates nailed down.
- In my case, the program director had three requests. #1 was a letter of intent (I wrote one, sent it to Faye and she printed it on CU letterhead, then I mailed it myself), #2 was a letter from an Associate Dean stating my academic eligibility (good standing, etc) had to be sent, and they also must approve your request if you are missing school. #3, proof of my health insurance (NOT malpractice, just normal health insurance so I scanned my card and emailed it).
Next, get yourself to the school. Book a hotel, stay with a friend if possible, etc. In my case, I decided to turn an externship in Charleston, South Carolina into a 25-hour (each way) road trip. Maybe not something I would do again, but it was a great way to see a TON of the country- 4000 miles to be exact. And, since it was during spring break- there was time for stops to visit friends along the way, explore new cities (St. Louis, Nashville, Jacksonville…), and eat at some incredible restaurants.
Arrival: show up at the clinic, wherever the program director tells you to meet. Now- this initial day can be the more awkward, uncomfortable portion of the week- meeting the residents and following them around, meanwhile you feel utterly useless and annoying. But- be friendly, polite, and ask questions. Talk to the faculty members. Make friends with the assistants. Act as though you are being watched at all times- because you are. Assist however you can. Pick the brains of the residents because they are your absolute BEST resource on picking programs, learning anything online is seemingly impossible.
Also take time to explore the city you are visiting and see if it’s a place you would want to live! This is a big part of deciding on any residency.
After you leave, it’s a great idea to send thank you cards to everyone you met. Keep in touch with the residents. Remember- you want to stand out, make a memorable impression, and hope that they will invite you back for an interview!
Moral of the story- externships bring residencies to life. Life decisions don’t come easily, but you should know in your heart where your future goals lie after completing this experience.