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My career: Externing with the tiniest humans

Nowell Boardman, a senior from McLean, Virginia, shares her story about landing a summer externship at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and how she grew as a nurse.


“This summer I had the opportunity to work at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) as part of their Summer Nurse Extern Program. When applying I knew I had an interest in the Neonatal ICU, but the ICU floors are usually the most competitive. However, I was fortunate enough to be placed on the NICU floor and I am so happy that I was. MGUH has a level 4 NICU, which means that they can take the highest level of care and that was something I was very excited about. The vast difference in care that I was able to see this past summer was eye opening. I was amazed by diagnoses and treatments that I had never seen before.

As a Nurse Extern, I worked closely with a nurse once a week and worked as a tech for my remaining shifts. When working with the nurse, I completed the majority of the patient care. I was able to work with critically ill neonates on ventilators, with tracheostomies, and neonates with shunts. I was also able to work with neonates with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and “feeders and growers” preparing to go home. Even when I was working as a tech, the nurses would pull me in to learn about procedures or interventions I did not know about. As part of the program, I had a shadow day on the Pediatric Transplant floor and Pediatric Oncology floor. These shadow days introduced me to other areas of nursing that I am interested in. Another aspect of the program I was excited about was the phlebotomy teaching lab I participated in.

Working at MGUH was a great learning experience for me. I was able to think critically about complex problems and how each system affected the others. I was able to further develop skills that I had learned in our OB clinical rotation. Villanova prepared me with the skills and resources to excel during this summer program.

One of the most rewarding parts of this summer was being able to talk with the parents and families. They are in a situation that is scary and often unpredictable and unexpected.  I observed the impact the nurses had on the families. They were able to give the families a sense of calmness and hope, and that is something I want to be able to do with every one of my patients. This summer I was able to see day-to-day what it would be like to be a NICU nurse and this summer extern program has made me want to pursue a career in Neonatal ICU nursing.”

My Career Tip #1

When you are an extern, do not be afraid to ask questions! Whether it is about a certain diagnosis or whether it is asking if you can sit in on a procedure, most likely the doctors and nurses will let you. They want you to learn as much as possible.  

My Career Tip #2

When applying for an externship, if you can, work on a floor you are interested in because it will tell you whether it is a good fit or not. I was very interested in the NICU, but now after my 10 week externship, the NICU is somewhere I know I want to work. My externship made me more excited about the possibly of working on a NICU floor after graduation.