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externship anxiety
PREPARING FOR YOUR EXTERNSHIP
First off, remember that the externship has to do with YOU! Medical assistant school graduates need skills that
allow them to function in a real workplace dealing with real people, therefore, most medical assisting training
programs provide their student body an externship of at least 160 hours before taking their final exams. The
medical assistant's externship marks the point of transition from being a student to becoming a qualified medical
assistant.
PURPOSE
The externship is a unique learning opportunity similar to an internship to provide students a short period of
practical experiences in the field. The medical assistant student works a regular work schedule without pay in an
actual medical facility with emphasis on on-the-job training to solidify skills previously learned in class.
Performance and attendance are carefully tracked by the medical office manager and reported back to the
student's school. Attendance and punctuality are indicators of reliability and professionalism. The medical
assisting externship usually consists of:
(a) A minimum of 160 contact hours
(b) Placement in an ambulatory health care setting
(c) Supervised instruction by health care professionals
(d) Performance monitored by the school
YOUR EXTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE
Some students may experience some degree of nervousness and anxiety before the
extenship begins. Anxiety is a basic human emotion consisting of fear stemming
from uncertainty that typically appears when an individual perceives an event as a
threat to the self-esteem (Sarason, 1988). It creates the feelings of fear,
apprehension or worry; however, a certain degree of anxiety is a common emotion
medical assistant students often share and has nothing to do with how well they will
perform at their externship site. Once started they usually find it to be a very
rewarding and invaluable experience. Not only that, your externship counts as
experience, so when asked during your job interview whether you have any job
experience you can say: "Yes."
FINDING A SITE
A good medical assistant school usually has already established a contact list of possible externship sites within
the community and the teaching staff makes the necessary arrangements to send them the most qualified
student. The goal is to carefully match medical assistants students with a suitable place. Some schools allow
their senior students to submit a so-called externship site wish list naming their preferred specialties, or location.
This wish list goes to their instructor, or externship site coordinator so they can suggest a few medical offices, or
specialties that they would really love to work in. There always are good medical centers and medical offices in
the community as desired placements for their students, especially family medicine and pediatrics is always high
on the list. Shortly before the externship begins, the medical assistant student may be asked to interview with the
physician, or medical office manager at the suggested facility. The student is expected to treat this interview
exactly as if it was an actual job interview. While this may cause a little bit of anxiety, it is an important step in
preparation for the highly competitive job market and the "real world".
BEGINNING THE EXTERNSHIP
This is the point where expectations and responsibilities shift over from the instructor to the student. It is the
student's chance to put everything that was taught in the classroom to practical use in a real medical office
environment—a chance to show some muscle and step up to the task. The medical assistant school usually has
already an established contact list of possible externship sites and the teaching staff makes the necessary
arrangements to send them their most qualified student. The goal is to carefully match medical assistants
students with a suitable site. Some schools allow their senior students to submit a so-called externship site wish
list naming their preferred specialties, or location.
An externship works similarly to an internship, but is much shorter in duration and without pay; it is the final step of
the training right before graduation from the program. Student medical assistants are NOT sent to the externship
site as hired employees and are not there to function as unpaid help for mundane tasks, but rather serves as a
practicum to apply and solidify skills learned in the classroom in an actual work environment. Depending on the
type of work and the location students can reasonably expect to be guided by experienced professionals who
understand the importance of the services they provide. As a medical assistant student on externship you should
never stand around idle waiting to be called, rather, look for tasks that are appropriate to your abilities, and if you
cannot pinpoint what to do next the best thing is to ask someone. Someone will be happy to show you what to do
and you will receive appropriate feedback about your performance.
The Evaluation: At the middle and end of each term the school will ask the externship site supervisor for a written
evaluation of the extern's work, attitude, and over-all performance. Once externs have completed their
assignments, feedback on both reliability and task performance is an essential component of the student's final
evaluation by the school. It determines whether the student will be allowed to graduate, or not.
Upon Completion: Upon completion of the externship experience, be sure to leave some copies of your resume
with the office manager, so that if any job opportunities arise at that place they will be able to reach you. You
should also mention that you'd appreciate it if they were to pass your resume along should they know of a
position at another office. If you left a good impression they will be more than happy to do this for you.
TIP: Get organized early! Have your uniform (scrub tops and pants and closed toe shoes) ready and a small
notepad that easily fits into your pocket and begin to make lists of things that are important to remember. Make a
list of equipment that you will need. Make a list of questions that you will need answered. There will be an
overwhelming avalanche of information that you will be responsible for—fact is that it is almost impossible to
remember every little detail.