If you’re considering a career as a medical assistant, you may have heard the term “externship.” It entails shadowing med assistants in healthcare settings, observing their interactions with patients and the performance of their professional duties.
Medical assistant externships serve as crucial avenues for gaining hands-on experience and learning. Not only it is a key to getting your foot in the door as a medical assistant, but it also affords you potential job opportunities and equips you with the confidence you need to be a successful.
This guide will cover what MA students can expect from a medical assistant externship, how to find and apply for one, and the benefits of participating in an externship.
What is a Medical Assistant Externship?
First, let’s start by examining what it aims to achieve, and how it differs from a medical assistant internship.
A medical assistant externship is an opportunity for aspiring med assistants to gain a real-world understanding of what working in this field entails.
During the externship, you’ll have the chance to observe and interact with MAs and other healthcare professionals, while also receiving close supervision and practicing some of your skills.
They are usually integrated into an accredited medical assisting program across the US, with schools partnering with key medical facilities and offices to provide this opportunity.
Purpose of Externship in MA Training
It serves as a valuable ‘trial’ phase that allows MA students to gain practical experience before graduating or securing a real job. Through this experience, you’ll get a snapshot of what’s to come in the future as a medical assistant.
Beyond providing valuable experience, an externship can also help you determine which medical assistant career path suits you best. It’s an excellent way to determine whether your interests are in clinical vs administrative tasks and what type of work environment you prefer.
Additionally, externships provide a competitive edge for those who participate as they’re highly sought after by future employers.
How Externship Differs from Internship
While both medical assisting externships and internships help to get students career-ready, they are designed in different ways.
During an externship, medical assistants usually shadow professionals, participate in meetings, and learn medical topics. In contrast, internships involve working on a particular job or assignment for the entire program, providing more detailed training and experience.
MA externs are typically in the early or middle stages of their training, which can limit their participation in hands-on experiences. MA interns, on the other hand, are considered apprentice-level training and have a wide range of tasks to perform.
Finding and Applying for Externships
To increase your chances of kickstarting your career as a medical assistant, it’s important you secure a valuable externship. There are multiple schools across the US that offer medical assistant programs that you can take advantage of.
Here’s everything you need to know about finding and applying for a medical assisting externship.
Where to Find Externship Opportunities
One of the best places to start looking for externship opportunities is through your school’s career services office. Many schools have partnerships with local medical facilities and can provide valuable resources.
In some cases, the educational program may take care of the task to find you an externship, but in other instances, you must find your own training site.
You can conduct online research to find potential externship opportunities through hospital or clinic websites job boards, and professional associations.
Application and Selection Process
Once you have found a potential externship opportunity, you’ll need to apply. Make sure to carefully review the application requirements, such as the application deadline and any required documents. Some facilities may require the following:
- Professional resume
- Criminal background check
- Drug panel screening
- PPD (TB) test results
- Immunization record
- Physician statement of health
- CPR, first aid, or BCLS certification.
Not all facilities will require this information, but it’s a good idea to prepare and have these documents available.
After submitting your application, you may be invited for an interview. Be prepared to discuss your interest in the med assisting profession and your goals for the externship experience.
You may also be asked about your previous experience, education, and any specific skills or areas of interest.
What to Expect During the Externship
Remember that the primary objective of an externship is to provide hands-on, real-world training as a med assistant. Consequently, you can expect to participate directly in the tasks that are typically associated with being a full-time medical assistant.
This might include giving patients specific types of care within your scope of practice, administering patient intake, and aiding physicians in performing certain tasks.
You’ll also have the opportunity to work with patients that are anxious, address their concerns, and ensure they’re as comfortable as possible. This is a crucial aspect of your job and no amount of classroom time can teach these kinds of interpersonal skills.
You’ll acquire the necessary medical assisting skills and knowledge to perform daily MA duties during the program. While classroom learning provides technical MA skills, externships focus on developing your competency in patient care, medical assisting procedures, and communication skills.
As an MA extern, you’ll work under the supervision of medical professionals either at a hospital, clinic, or private practice. Some specific duties you can expect to perform during a medical assistant program include:
- Administering injections and immunizations
- Collecting samples for clinical testing
- Managing sensitive patient information
- Scheduling appointments and preparing patients for examinations
- Logging vitals and medical records
- Informing patients on procedures, tests, and follow-ups
- Coordinating with staff to determine supply needs and placing orders
- Setting up medical equipment
- Handling billing and insurance claims
At this point, you likely understand the importance of a medical assistant externship for your future career. But it’s key to note that this can be a challenging transitional period. You’ll need to be resilient, patient, and diligent.
Be prepared to adapt to a new work environment, deal with uneasy patients, take in constructive criticism, and manage the stress of working in a clinical setting.
Keep in mind that medical assistant externships are a significant opportunity for growth and development. It’s a chance to go beyond theoretical knowledge and gain practical experience that can boost your confidence in this line of work.
Becoming a successful medical assistant is a significant achievement and a source of pride, and a medical assistant externship is designed to help you achieve exactly that.
Benefits of Med Assistant Externship
MA externships are an incredibly rewarding aspect of your studies, and there’s no doubt that participating in one will provide you with numerous advantages.
Here are just some of the benefits you can reap from a medical assistant program:
A medical assistant externship can offer a wealth of opportunities for professional development. While it can be intimidating to transition from a medical assistant course to working with real patients, an externship provides a supervised and guided experience in a professional healthcare environment.
This first-hand experience you get from an MA externship allows you to learn from established medical experts, gain confidence, and hone your skills.
It offers students an invaluable opportunity to network and build relationships. Strong contacts in the health sector can open doors and lead to new opportunities in your career as a medical assistant.
Even if the healthcare provider where you complete your externship doesn’t have any openings, the contacts you make during your externship can provide valuable referrals to other healthcare facilities.
Potential for Employment
If you perform impressively during your externship, there’s a possibility that the employer may offer you a permanent position in their establishment.
To maximize this benefit of an externship, it’s essential to approach it with a mindset of professionalism and readiness for future job opportunities.
Although you may not necessarily want a permanent position at the location of your externship, it is crucial to make a positive impression if you want a potential referral to your dream healthcare facility.
Interacting with colleagues, medical experts, doctors, and patients is a regular part of a medical assistant’s job. In all these communications, it is important to conduct yourself in a professional manner.
While classroom learning and simulations can be helpful, they can’t fully replicate real-life patient interaction. An externship allows medical assistant students to apply their knowledge of patient care, lab-based tasks, and administrative duties in a real-world setting.
Ultimately, it’s a chance to put learning into action.
Enhancing Your Resume
In addition to providing practical experience before entering the workforce, the most significant benefit of an MA externship is that it can make your resume stand out to potential employers.
Externships offer a practical complement to your textbook learning, providing you with a competitive edge that can help you score a medical assisting job sooner after graduation.
Potential employers are also more likely to trust your medical assisting competencies and skills when you demonstrate practical experience on your resume.
How do I find medical assistant externship opportunities?
There are several ways to find medical assistant externship opportunities. In most cases, your school will have a medical assistant student externship program that you can go through. If this is not the case, you can also contact local healthcare facilities, search online job boards, and network with professionals.
What is the application process for a medical assistant externship?
The application process for medical assistant externships can vary depending on the provider or institution offering the opportunity. Typically, you will need to submit a resume and any required application materials. You may also need to undergo an interview process before being accepted into the program.
What happens during a medical assistant externship?
During a medical assistant externship, you’ll have the opportunity to work closely with various healthcare professionals in real-life situations. You may help with administrative and clinical tasks, all while receiving the mentorship you need to successfully complete the program.
What are the requirements for a medical assistant externship?
The requirements for medical assistant externships can vary depending on the institution, but the following are most common:
- Applications must be at least 18 years old,
- Possess a high school diploma or equivalent,
- Possess proof of legal residency in the US,
- Provide background checks, drug screenings, and health checkups,
- Vaccinations are typically mandatory, although the specific list may vary depending on the program and state regulations,
- And the duration of the externship can vary depending on the program and specific requirements but are typically around 180 hours for successful completion.