Students Accelerate Nursing Careers with Hands-On Clinical Experience

August 3, 2021

“The program is a ‘win-win’ for both the students and the hospital,” says Bridget Denzik, DNP, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer at Aiken Regional Medical Centers.

The Aiken Regional Mentoring Consortium Nurse Externship Program recently graduated its first cohort of nursing students. During the program, the students are paired with a seasoned nurse preceptor on a medical-surgical unit. The student follows the nurse preceptor through the course of the semester, receiving hands-on experience and a strong foundation in basic nursing skills. As part of the program, nursing students commit to two years of employment as a registered nurse at Aiken Regional Medical Centers.

First-Hand Experiences of Our Spring 2021 Nurse Extern Graduates

Carson Leigh Deal, RN, Progressive Care Unit (PCU)

Carson Deal graduation
Carson Deal, RN; with Erin Seigler, RN, BSN, Critical Care Nurse Preceptor (left); Bridget Denzik, DNP, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer; and Tim Hornsby, RN, BSN, Director of Critical Care

“My nurse preceptor helped me grow accustomed to the hospital’s policies, procedures and protocols. Knowing that I was not just there to complete practicum clinical hours, but that I would be there as a long-term employee, she always tailored educational moments and advice to help me learn what was standard and expected at Aiken Regional. Her role as preceptor is what has helped me build confidence for my new role as a full-time RN.

“There was always an opportunity offered to me to participate in assisting with unique or new procedures to further my skill set. And when I was nervous or feeling unsure of my skills, instead of my nurse preceptor taking over for me, she would proceed to walk me through the steps I needed to resolve the situation appropriately. My confidence level was soon at a point where I was able to do the work on my own.

“Before I graduated, I had a team of supporters in our hospital rooting for me which motivated me even more through all the late nights of studying for my final exams, finishing up assignments and preparing for my board licensure exam [the NCLEX].

“The nurse externship program provided me with the experience and confidence I needed to walk into the NCLEX testing center ready to excel on my exam, and I did exactly that!”

David Foisy, RN, 5 Main (Cardiac/Neurology Stepdown Unit)

David Foisy graduation
David Foisy, RN; with Cynthia Greene, RN, BSN, Director of 5 Main (left); and Bridget Denzik, DNP, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer

“My nurse preceptor was a long-time Aiken Regional employee of 20 years and had a vested interest in helping me develop my nursing skills, since I would be working with her every day once I completed my nurse externship.

“The additional clinical hours put me ahead of my nursing school peers, because I had many more opportunities to experience, observe and practice in real-time, the skills I would need once I began my nursing career.”

Christina Fralick, RN, 3 Main (Medical/Surgical Unit)

Christina Fralick graduation
Christina Fralick, RN; with Teresa Lilly, RNC, BSN, Director of Women’s LifeCare Center (left); Bridget Denzik, DNP, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer; and Quatisha Knight, RN, BSN, 3 Main Nurse Preceptor

“My work with a nurse preceptor provided me an opportunity to apply my education in the clinical setting in a way that makes sense to patient care. Every single day brought a renewed chance to learn something I’ve never experienced before.

“The externship helped me improve my overall communication skills with physicians, nurses, patients and their families. I firmly believe my participation in the externship allowed me to feel more comfortable in my transition to a full-time nursing position.”