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An ICU staff member washes their hands before leaving the room.
Handwashing is more important than ever. Staff wash their hands after every touchpoint with a patient or object that may have come in contact with the virus.
May 12, 2021

Successful Nurse Extern program enhanced and expanded at HHS

HAMILTON, ON – The Ontario Ministry of Health recently announced the enhancement and expansion of the current Nursing Extern Program, as well as added more nurse extern positions for clinical areas based on needs. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) is pleased to participate in this opportunity.

The Extern Program was originally designed for hospitals to hire numerous nursing students who are in their third and fourth years of the BScN program, as well as nursing students in their final year of the Practical Nursing Program. Current nursing clinical externs at HHS can have their contracts extended until March 31, 2022. The enhanced extern program now also includes respiratory therapy, undergraduate medicine and paramedic service, in addition to nursing students.

“Clinical externs have been involved in delivering care to our patients, including completion of head to toe assessments and vital signs, promoting patient safety through falls risk assessments and skin assessments, helping with activities of daily living, and other interventions that are assigned or delegated to them within various departments of our hospital,” says Charissa Cordon, Chief of Nursing Practice at HHS. “We are pleased to have this program extended, as well as enhanced to include other disciplines that could benefit from this hands-on learning. We have received very positive feedback from leaders and clinical externs at HHS.”

The program has been mutually beneficial for students, as well as HHS. Teena Mathew, a student within the Conestoga College nursing program was in the first cohort of nursing externs to join HHS earlier this spring, and was assigned to the very busy ICU. “Recently it has been so busy at the ICU with the overwhelming number of COVID cases that the nurses require our help right away. We jump right into providing personal care for the patients, repositioning and helping them set up for breakfast.”

These future nurses – and now allied health care professionals – are augmenting their breadth of practical experiences and building confidence in patient and family care, and concurrently gaining experiences of belonging to and learning first hand about inter-professional team work.

“The biggest skill that I get to enact in my role every day is my therapeutic communication and relationship building,” says Jessica Loiseau, a student within the McMaster University nursing program, who was placed within McMaster Children’s Hospital. “It is terrifying to have a child receiving surgery, and it is even scarier in the middle of the pandemic, so I get to use my skills to help comfort patients and families through a very challenging time.”

The program was extended across the province to participating hospitals by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. With being in the midst of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it provides additional support and unique learning opportunities.

“We thank the Ontario Ministry of Health for extending and enhancing this wonderful program,” says Rebecca Fleck, Director of the Regional Rehabilitation Program at HHS. “It wouldn’t be possible without our partners. It has been and will continue to be a mutually beneficial program for all involved.”

HHS is pleased to continue this work with community partners – namely, McMaster University, Mohawk College and Conestoga College – to expand the program.

“I have actually been incredibly grateful for this Extern position because it allowed me to get experience in pediatrics that I was not able to get during my education,” adds Loiseau. “I have been passionate about pursuing pediatric nursing since before I got into nursing school, so being able to work in this field as an Extern has been an incredible opportunity.”

Linnea Rainford from Mohawk College’s practical nursing program agrees – “The pandemic has impacted our program, forcing us to learn to become nurses online… The Extern position allows me to practice many of the skills I have developed in the year and a half that I’ve been in the program, which will help me to find a job in the nursing field after I graduate.”

The Extern position is viewed as a developmental role, whereby students develop clinical expertise, specialty knowledge and self-confidence as they move from a student a registered health care professional. Externs will be in an unregulated care provider status, and will be supervised by a nurse and/or a regulated health care professional, appropriate, during their time at HHS.

If you qualify and are interested in participating in the program, please visit to view and apply for the available positions.


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For more information, please contact:

Wendy Stewart
Communications & Public Affairs
Hamilton Health Sciences