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*School of Health Sciences*

Library and Learning Services information hub for all things School of Health Sciences.

Health Sciences Careers

For more, please see the Medical Assistant Career Information box in the MA guide.


What is an externship?

"Similar to an apprenticeship or internship, an externship is typically a training program offered by educational institutions and private businesses that give students brief practical experiences in their field of study" (Smith, 2013, para. 3).

What's important?

  • The extern gains knowledge and insight into his or her future profession.
  • The extern makes invaluable networking connections.
  • The extern treats the externship as a real, professional placement and acts accordingly.
  • The extern exhibits professionalism.
  • The extern understands that it is a privilege, not a right, to be an extern.

Review the information on the following tabs to help you prepare for your externship!

Tips for Success​

“This is your experience--you will get out of it what you put into it.  Keep in mind to impress at all times as this may be your potential employer and/or reference.”

Before you begin

  • Be sure to research your site prior to your first day.
  • Wear your business attire or Rasmussen Scrubs (if applicable). NEVER wear jeans, shorts, tank tops, flip flops.
  • Do not have excessive or dangling earrings, facial piercings, or visible tattoos.  You can never look “too professional,” especially for a first impression/interview.
  • Arrive on time, have all the necessary equipment/supplies, and be ready to go
  • Leave your phone in your car or purse (if in purse, have it on mute--even the vibrate mode can be loud).  Do not check email, text messages Facebook, etc. Your phone should not be in your possession during your practicum/externship. If your family needs to reach you during this time, ask your preceptor a good number for them to call should something happen. Save it for lunch time or after hours
  • Leave your problems at home. You have to separate yourself when you are at work.

At your site

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes before your start time, and do not ask to leave early.  Keep in mind if you need to park off site (parking garage, employee parking, etc.), it will take extra time to get to your department.
  • Always identify yourself as a Rasmussen University student.
  • Ask for feedback from your preceptor frequently and often.  It shows you are interest in learning.  Ask for help if you are uncomfortable with the task or cannot remember but TAKE NOTES so you do not ask repetitive questions.
  • Be careful of your comments.  They can reflect negatively on you as a student as well as Rasmussen University.  Do not make comments about current employers or competing organizations.
  • Never refuse or reject an opportunity to learn or see new things.  Even if you have seen it, never refuse opportunities.
  • Never sit idle and instead seek out work or tasks to help
  • Avoid office conflict.  Walk away and do not get involved.
  • Keep comments and opinions to yourself.  You are there to learn.
  • Notify the externship coordinator or your instructor immediately if something does not seem right or if there are any problems.
  • Keep in mind that there are many ways to do certain tasks/skills that you will see and or learn.  Do not question or correct your mentor about his/her way, especially not in front of a patient or other employee.  You should always ask why (s)he does it that way, but only after the patient/employee has left.

What is professionalism?  According to the US Department of Labor, "professionalism does not mean wearing a suit or carrying a briefcase; rather, it means conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence.  It means communicating effectively and appropriately and always finding a way to be productive" (Department of Labor, n.d.).

Being professional is important whether it is in the classroom or on the job.  Consider the following aspects of professionalism (many items taken from Rasmussen's Medical Assisting Program's PATH [Professionalism, Attitude, Time Management, and Hygiene] Project) packet:

  • Respect
    • On time to meetings, to class, and to work
    • Full attendance
    • Obligations and responsibilities attended to on time
    • Manners and etiquette are used
      • No foul language, cursing, or swearing
      • "Please" and "thank you" used as appropriate
      • Greetings and farewells made
      • Communicating clearly and with courtesy
    • Appropriate body language and facial expressions used
    • No use of language that excludes others such as slang, second languages, acronyms, and jargon with those who do not/cannot understand
    • Phone shut off during business/work time and class time; no incoming texts or calls accepted unless emergencies, and no outgoing calls or texts made
  • Positive Attitude
    • Respect for others shown
    • Willing to learn
    • Engaging in what is happening or being said
    • Listening
    • Asking questions and engaging
    • Being present
    • Being prepared
    • Willing to hear and learn from constructive criticism
  • Good Dress and Hygiene
    • Good hygiene
      • Showers or bathes regularly enough 
        • Non-offensive body odor (to others)
        • Clean hair
        • Clean skin
        • Brushes teeth
      • Limited or no scented lotions and perfumes
      • Uses deodorant
      • Does not smell like cigarette smoke
    • Appropriate clothing
      • Shoes are appropriate to the situation and environment
      • Clothing is clean and not stained or torn
      • Clothing is not wrinkled
      • Clothing covers body appropriately for the situation and environment
    • Appropriate "accessories"
      • Jewelry (earrings, rings, facial/body piercings, gauging) limited or follows workplace or school policies
      • Tattoos covered or hidden as appropriate to workplace or school policies
      • Facial hair, hair length, and/or hair color follows workplace or school policies
      • Nail length and color follows workplace or school policies

See also: Ethics & Professional Responsibility Guide

Rasmussen's guide on ethical behavior and professional responsibilities.  It includes information not only on ethics but also on managing your online footprint (think social media strategy and netiquette).

Department of Labor. (n.d.). Soft skills to pay the bills: Mastering soft skills for workplace success. Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2013). Externships: What they are and why they're important. Forbes. Retrieved from