ST. LOUIS – SSM Health has launched a new program that could allow nursing students in the St. Louis region to earn pay and college credit at the same time.

The health system’s new ‘nurse extern’ program, which launched in May, has already drawn 78 nursing students from 17 schools across five states. The program comes as hospitals and health systems across the country deal with nurse shortages.

Like an internship program, externs gain valuable experience as they train and work alongside SSM Health staff nurses. Externs work on patient floors, in behavioral health, emergency rooms, and labor and delivery departments, with plans to extend the offerings to the operating room and cath labs.

“Nursing is a very fulfilling career, and it’s important that we provide exposure to all the opportunities that exist within a system as large as SSM Health,” said Amber Wood, SSM Health System VP for Clinical Education & Clinical Placements. “The program also helps student nurses know what to expect when they make the transition to full-time work.”

Externs are paid hourly for their efforts and receive tuition reimbursement. 

Externs are serving at most of SSM Health’s hospitals in the St. Louis region with plans to expand throughout the four-state region where SSM Health treats patients.