HCA Healthcare’s New Hampshire hospitals — Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Parkland Medical Center in Derry and Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester — are launching a nurse extern program, the first such program in the state of New Hampshire.

The externship program was designed to provide nursing students with the opportunity to develop their clinical skills and judgment, critical thinking, and professionalism, and to help improve and ease the transition from the classroom to the bedside. It also provides HCA Healthcare’s New Hampshire hospitals with a pipeline for recruiting and retaining new nurses during a time when the nation is facing a severe nursing shortage.

“This is the first program of its kind in New Hampshire, and will be a great opportunity for nursing students to gain experience at the bedside while still in school,” said Michelle Dodd, RN, chief nursing officer at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. “Thirty to 60 percent of new nurses leave within their first year, due in great part to being overwhelmed, and struggle with the transition to practice. This program will give our future nurses the clinical experience they’ll need to hit the ground running when they begin their careers.”

The pilot program is pathway-specific, providing each nursing extern with the opportunity to work alongside a licensed registered nurse preceptor to enhance their clinical education and skills, helping them to be better prepared when they transfer into the licensed practicing role. The program will allow nursing students to perform patient care under the preceptor's direct supervision based on a specific scope of practice, responsibilities, and competencies.

Nurses enrolled in an accredited nursing program who are in good standing based on specific educational criteria who have successfully completed the fundamental clinical experience will be eligible to apply for the nursing externship program.

Nursing students who are interested in learning more about the program can contact Eileen Keefe, chief nursing officer at Parkland Medical Center.