Nursing externships give nursing students an invaluable way to gain on-site hospital experience while still in school. Similar to an internship program, externships enable students in their later years of study to provide assistance and support in clinical situations. These programs have existed for decades at many hospitals, providing students a way to learn from experienced clinicians while getting paid for their contributions.
For nursing students interested in getting into the mental health field however, there were often less opportunities to learn about mental health nursing. Many nursing programs are focused on traditional nursing roles, with limited education on how to address mental health clinical care, and many nurses relied on on-the-job training to gain the experience they need.
This has been changing with the introduction of the CAMH Clinical Externship Program, which was successfully piloted in 2021 and returned again earlier this year.
“Last year we had a total of 60 externs, of which 16 transitioned into permanent roles at CAMH,” says Meghan Fyke, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Trauma and Neurosurgery Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, who formerly led this program as the Extern Mentor Coordinator. “Extern programs have existed for a few decades, but they have gained a lot of popularity in the last couple of years as an approach to help with human resource related challenges with staffing in hospitals.”
Kelyang Tenzin, an RN and Nurse Educator, currently supports the program in the EMC role at CAMH. “A key benefit of this program is that it allows students to explore mental health nursing, which is often a neglected (and stigmatized) nursing specialty.”