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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, externships, apprenticeships, patient simulations, volunteering, and professional organizations.


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


  • 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


  • Registered apprenticeships are available to employees for further job development
  • These are paid positions
  • Apprentices receive at least 1 wage increase during training
  • Provides classroom training at the employer site, at a school, or online
  • Includes structured “On-the-Job training” or mentorship

Dual Enrollment Programs

Job Shadowing

  • Are usually part-time during the year or full-time for a short period
  • Are often unpaid positions
  • Observes a single employee for a day

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


  • 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.



MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board

1441 Main Street, First Floor
Springfield, MA 01103

The MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board is an Equal Opportunity Employer/Program, auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities, Verizon Telephone Relay Service: TDD/TTY: 1-800-439-2370 Voice: 1-800-439-0183