Clinical Externship Information
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There are two clinical externships in the program, one after semester two and one just before graduation. Clinical Externship 1 is completed at the end of semester 2. You are required to find a veterinary practice that is willing to mentor you during this process. There is paperwork that should be submitted after you have taken your proctored exams. Again, the externship approval process does not begin until after you have completed your proctored exams and passed all the courses in semester 2. You cannot begin to work on any of the clinical skills until your site has been approved. You will receive an email from the Clinical Coordinator with your official start date for the clinical externship as well as the name of your faculty evaluator for the externship when you are approved to begin. Clinical Externship 2 is completed at the end of semester 4. This externship has all the same requirements stated above (you must find your sites, pass all courses in semester 4 before the approval process will begin, and cannot start your externship until you receive your email with your official start date). Students will receive more detailed information prior to the start of the externship.
Students must locate a suitable veterinary clinic/hospital and send back the required paperwork (provided in the Clinical Externship PDF you will receive access to on your MyCourses/Program and Courses page) to Penn Foster for approval. The school does NOT provide a site for you, but we do have partnerships with two of the largest animal hospitals in the country, VCA and Banfield. You may be able to secure your externship with a location near you.
Paperwork required includes the following:
- Clinical Site Facility Criteria
- Clinical Mentorship Agreement
- Student Externship Agreement (this lists specific rules you agree to follow)
- Equipment and Supplies available to student
- Rabies Vaccine Policy Form
- Student Pregnancy Policy Form (must be completed by all students regardless of gender or pregnancy status)
- Current Photo ID and a recent headshot (AKA - "selfie")
- Proof of Health Insurance
- Health insurance is required during both externships. Most colleges require that you have health insurance for your entire enrollment; we only require it during the externship. The reason is simple: safety. You can get hurt during a externship. We do not want anyone to face the possibility of injury without the possibility of being able to afford treatment. It is to protect you, the clinic, and the school. It is required and there are no exceptions. A copy of an insurance card is acceptable, however if it is not your name on the card, be sure to include a statement from the insurance company stating that you are included on the policy.A copy of an insurance card is acceptable, however if it is not your name on the card, be sure to include a statement from the insurance company stating that you are included on the policy.
- You may use more than one supervisor at a clinical site, but, please make sure they each have the proper paperwork filled out. You will also need a summary of skills list if you are using more than one site.
The externships are designed to allow the program to document your performance of specific skills required by the AVMA-CVTEA. No prior work experience can be substituted for this.
- The first externship is focused on skills related to office procedures and routine small animal procedures (i.e. restraint, injections). Many of the skills must be performed at a companion animal general practice. Specialty, emergency, and referral clinics cannot be used as a sole location for Clinical Externship 1.
- The second externship covers the remainder of the skills including radiology (film-based), advanced small animal procedures, and it covers some large animals and small mammals as well.
CVTEA Required skills can be found on the AVMA website, please review this site for additional information: CVTEA Accreditation Policies and Procedures - Appendix I
The externship site must meet specific criteria for equipment and staffing. A detailed PDF is provided to you on your My Courses/Program and Courses Page when you are near the end of semesters 2 and 4 that contains all this information. A minimum of 200 hours of clinical experience is required for Clinical Externship 1. A minimum of 250 hours is required for Clinical Externship 2. You are required to complete the minimum hours in approximately 10 weeks (Clinical Externship 1) or 18 weeks (Clinical Externship 2). A maximum of six months is allowed for completion of the externship; failure to complete the externship by this time can result in a failing grade for the externship. No potential externship site can be pre-approved.
The externship deadlines are separate from your semester enrollment. Our deadlines exist within the confines of your semester enrollment. If your semester is going to expire during your externship, you will have to speak with student services about obtaining an extension. If your semester is about to expire before you've sent in your paperwork, you will need an extension. However keep in mind that externship deadlines supersede enrollment expiration when it comes to when you have to have your skills in.
Qualified clinical site supervisors for the externship are
- A credentialed veterinary technician that is a graduate of an AVMA-CVTEA accredited veterinary technician program is the preferred choice... OR
- A veterinarian licensed to practice in the US or Canada only if no such technician is available.
In rare instances when a student's proposed supervisor cannot be reached, the student is advised to locate a different supervisor. This is simply due to our concern that if the supervisor cannot take the three minutes to discuss the externship (the average length of the phone call we make), we wonder whether they have the time to adequately supervise the student. If the student chooses to remain with the same supervisor, they often have to wait to begin until we can speak with the supervisor.
You cannot begin either externship until all proctored exams have been successfully completed and you have been sent an official approval email and assigned a faculty advisor by Penn Foster. If your semester enrollment has expired or will soon expire (less than 3 months left), you will be required contact student services about obtaining an extension before we can process your externship facility documents. Completion/Passing of the Externship is required prior to starting the next semester (Clinical Externship 1) or graduation (Clinical Externship 2). Once you begin the Externship, your faculty advisor will monitor your progress and assist you in completing the requirements and submitting the required documentation. Documentation may include journals, radiographs, videos, etc.
Please be aware of the Standards of Progress stated in your student handbook, students who are in the Veterinary Technician program cannot be enrolled in the program for over 4 years at the time of beginning their first externship. Veterinary technician students who have exceeded the four-year time limit at the time of the first practicum will be required to re-enroll in the program. Students who have been enrolled from three to four years should consider re-enrollment prior to beginning the externship.
*If you have additional questions related to the externships, contact an instructor at the school!
Here are some hints to (hopefully) make your Externship paperwork process go smoothly.
- Please review the requirements in the Externship Booklet in your Externship Course to be sure you have EVERYTHING that is required! The booklet on your my courses/programs and course page contains the most current information & it is what you need to use for your clinical practicum. The tips here do not contain everything!
- Be sure that your 2nd (or 4th) semester hasn’t expired or is about to expire. Get an extension, if needed.
- Make sure that your Externship paperwork is filled out correctly. Review it several times for errors before you mail it to Penn Foster. If it is incorrect it will be returned to you. Please call us if you are unsure. Some common areas of error include (but are not limited to):
- Credentials: If using a technician, you must provide whether he/she is an LVT, CVT, or RVT. You must provide the school of graduation. Again, the school must be AVMA-CVTEA accredited. If using a veterinarian, please provide the credential (DVM, VMD, etc.) and the school of graduation. Please only use a veterinarian if a credentialed tech is unavailable.
- Number of species: This must be a number, not a percentage or left blank. It does not have to be exact, but we do need an approximate estimate. This is to ensure that you are seeing enough of the particular species needed for the skill sets.
- Equipment list: Everything on the equipment list must be included. If you don’t have something, it is not acceptable to write in “we will purchase one” or “borrowing one from another clinic.” If a piece of equipment is not available at the site of your choice, you either must purchase the equipment before sending in the paperwork or choose another site.
- Summary of Skills list: If you are using more than one site in Clinical Externship 2, you must provide a list of skills that will be done at each site. The small animal radiography skills (49-52) must be performed all at the same site. Individual skills cannot be split up between sites.
- Make sure ALL of the paperwork is included in one envelope (or one email). You cannot send your paperwork to us in parts/pieces! If all of the necessary paperwork isn't included, we will return the paperwork back to you.
- At this time, please email paperwork to firstname.lastname@example.org for best results. Be sure ALL required paperwork is attached to the one email.
- Once your externship paperwork is submitted correctly, we have to contact your site supervisors by phone. It can sometimes take weeks of playing phone tag to actually talk to some of the site supervisors, so please let them know to expect a phone call from someone at Penn Foster. The phone call only takes about 5 minutes, unless your supervisor has a lot of questions.
- Once you are approved by the clinical coordinator to start your externship, be aware of your deadlines. Clinical Externship 1 students have 10 weeks to complete their skills and their time sheet for 200 hours of work; Clinical Externship 2 students have 18 weeks for 250 hours of work. You must submit skills on a weekly basis. You CANNOT wait until the end of your Externship to submit all of your skills. Please review your signed student externship agreement for all the rules and processes you are expected to follow.
- The digital radiograph controversy! Here at Penn Foster have nothing against using digital radiographs for your externship. However, until the AVMA-CVTEA decides to allow digital radiography, externship students must continue to take film-based radiographs. Yes, we know that film-based radiograph equipment is being phased out in many regions of the country and we sympathize with any difficulties you may have finding a externship site without digital equipment, but we can’t make exceptions for anyone at this time. You will be taking radiographs on a live animal and sending the films into Penn Foster for evaluation. If the clinic where you wish to complete your externship skills has digital radiograph equipment, you will have to find a 2nd site to complete your radiograph skills and you will have to fill out the same externship paperwork that you did for your first site.
- Don’t expect to walk into the externship site and have the site supervisor teach you everything. You should have a very good understanding of the material you have covered in your courses. You may not fully grasp the application of those skills until you get a chance to practice them, but you should have knowledge of the anatomy and concepts behind everything you are doing. Make sure to review your course materials often, especially before you go to a site for an interview.
- Once assigned to a Penn Foster faculty evaluator, you will be provided with contact information for that person. Use it! He/she will be the person evaluating your skills and knows exactly what we are looking for. It is perfectly OK to email your evaluator with questions or concerns. Our goal is the same as yours: to see you succeed and understand what you are doing!
- Be sure you read ALL areas of the skill sheets. Don't focus only on the "materials to be submitted" section. Your faculty evaluator will be using ALL parts of the skill sheets to grade the materials you are submitting. If it is mentioned on your skill sheet you should be sure to document it in the materials you are submitting to the school.
- Aim to send in about 4 skills per week. Don’t wait around until a month has passed and then start trying to tackle everything. That is a sure way to wind up stressed out.
- Don’t feel discouraged! It is a lot of information at once, yes, but try to work on one skill at a time, and remember, it is NORMAL to not get it right the first time or to have skills returned to you for resubmission. This is a learning process. Only practice will make perfect, so just keep your head up and keep trying!
- Be excited! This is the chance to show your stuff and practice what you’ve been working so hard towards. Ask a lot of questions, stay around to observe complicated procedures even if you won’t be directly involved, and practice as much as you can!
You can read more about the externship paperwork here: Clinical Externship Paperwork Guide