Gaining Experience

Creativity pays off

Getting firsthand experience is an invaluable way to find out if a healthcare career is the right fit, or to advance a career. Finding these opportunities, however, may take some effort and creativity.

Some ways to gain experience that are available for many healthcare careers, but can be competitive or difficult to gain access to, include:

Internships

  • Are typically at or near the end of a training or academic program.
  • Are usually paid positions.
  • Help with the transition to a professional work environment.
  • Are supervised, but is the intern expected to engage in a large range of professional activities.

Externships

  • Are usually part-time during the year or full-time for a short period.
  • Are often unpaid positions.
  • Offer students hands-on experience at an earlier stage of their academic or training program.
  • Are highly supervised and involve less skilled activities or only certain activities of the profession compared to internships.

Patient Simulations

  • Are used as part of an education or training program to allow for hands-on experience in a controlled environment.
  • Are accessed through enrollment in a program or class.
  • Allow students to practice job skills in a realistic setting and get feedback from instructors.

Volunteering

  • Can take place any time of year or at any stage of a career.
  • Is always unpaid.
  • Offers a wide variety of experience specific to the organization.
  • Can be highly organized and supervised, or may allow for more independent activity, based on the organization.

The American Red Cross is an example of an organization that readily accepts volunteers and has a variety of specific opportunities for gaining experience, from patient care to administrative support.

Professional Organizations

  • Offer professional development opportunities throughout the year and at any stage of a career.
  • May require a membership fee.
  • Provide the ability to network with others in a specific career pathway.
  • Can provide up-to-date information on changing professional requirements for a specific career pathway.

Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), a national organization of future healthcare professionals, is an excellent resource for anyone considering a career in healthcare.  The local Western Massachusetts chapters offer a wide variety of activities, including guest speakers, job shadowing, service activities, and simulation practice. Learn more about how to get involved in HOSA. 

 

Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)
A statewide youth outreach program of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, MassAHEC Network, and an affiliate of national Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Learn more.