A Senior Nursing Student’s Perception about Providing Care to Critically Ill Patients following an Externship


  • Abigail E. Knepp
  • Pamela Cook
  • Rebecca Toothaker


High anxiety levels are prevalent among graduate nurses transitioning from student nurses to professional nurses. Along with higher anxiety levels, low levels of self-confidence in clinical decision-making skills are also reported among new graduate nurses. Nurse externship programs provide senior-level nursing students the opportunity to increase self-confidence, decrease anxiety, and improve clinical decision-making skills by practicing in the graduate nurse role under a supervising Registered Nurse. Following a comprehensive literature search, there is limited research on nurse externships in the critical care clinical environment and the positive benefits externship programs provide nursing students. The aim of this qualitative descriptive case study is to describe one senior nursing students’ perception on providing care for critically ill patients during a summer nurse externship. The student nurse journaled a week prior to the externship, each day following the experience and upon the completion of the experience. The method of journaling allowed for accurate self-reflection and acknowledgment of changes in confidence, anxiety and critical decision-making skills. Following the completion of a ten-week externship program, the nursing student reflected on personal and professional growth which included increase in self-confidence, decreased anxiety, and improved clinical decision-making in providing care for critically ill patients. Externships can provide senior-level nursing students a successful transition to professional clinical practice and promote safer practice at the bedside.