How Stepful Guarantees Clinical Hours for Students: Externship Coordinator Monique Reed Answers Your Questions

Meet Monique: A Stepful Externship Coordinator

Hi, I'm Monique (everyone calls me Mo) and I'm a Senior Externship Coordinator here at Stepful.

My professional background is as a Certified Pharmacy Technician. I've been a Certified Pharmacy Technician for about 18 years now. I got into education around 2009. I've been an instructor, a program director, an externship coordinator, and all of that experience has led me here to Stepful. I love this school, it's a great program for students.

How does an Externship Coordinator secure clinical hours for Stepful students?

After completing the 4-month online portion of Stepful's program, students will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Medical assistants will complete 80 clinical hours and pharmacy technicians will complete 130 clinical hours.

The role of the externship coordinator, in its simplest terms, is to coordinate externships! But please trust me, it is a lot deeper than that. Whenever we've identified a student in a specific area, we reach out to sites within that area to see if they can host a student.

For pharmacy technicians, we reach out to pharmacies, hospitals, etc. For medical assistants, we reach out to urgent cares, clinics, maybe some health systems, doctor's offices, etc. If they call us back and confirm that they can host the student, then we determine what goes into the affiliation agreement, or the contract. We have many, many meetings on Zoom trying to work all of this out.

Once we work it out, the contract has to be signed. That could take anywhere from 24 hours to 6 months, so there's a lot of legwork involved in getting a contract for a student. We are working very, very hard behind the scenes to make sure that you get placed.

Is it typical for programs to guarantee externship placement?

In my experience, I've found that programs may offer externships as a service, but they're very strict with their guidelines. They may only have one site option available to students, or one partnership that's available to students.

I think the difference with Stepful is that we want to give students the opportunity to do their externship wherever they want, whether it's in pediatrics, dermatology, podiatry, urgent care, etc. We try our hardest to accommodate students based on their preferences, likes, and dislikes, and we just want a good reservoir of options to provide our students.

What's the farthest a student would have to travel for their externship?

20 miles is our limit in placing students. Now, that looks different depending on where you are. If you live in rural Alabama, 20 miles looks a lot different than going 20 miles from Upper Manhattan to Brooklyn. We try to take that into consideration. What does 20 miles actually look like for this student?

But if a student does live in a rural area, we still try our hardest to make sure they get a site that's as close to them as possible, that's willing to host, and is willing to give them a good externship experience. We don't want to place students just any old place; we want to make sure they actually learn while they're there.

Do students ever get hired by their externship sites?

Do students ever get hired by their externship sites...? YES! Here's an example — we're partnered with CVS, I'm sure you've heard of it. CVS has hired about 90% of our externs. The only reason the other 10% weren't hired is because they literally wanted to work somewhere else.

The medical assistant program is the same. We have externship sites that are hiring our students, sites that are begging us to send more students, we have students who are now training other students at these sites because they got hired. So it is like a full-circle situation, and we're so happy to see the end results.

How does Stepful help address the healthcare worker shortage?

When I went to school as a pharmacy technician, it took me a year and a half. Things have changed. Very few people have the funds, the circumstances, the means to go to school for a year and a half every day.

At the same time, especially during pandemics and healthcare crises, these employers are really needing people. Stepful is working to solve this problem. It's providing affordable, brief, solid education to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity, and using that to fill gaps for medical assistants and for pharmacy technicians.

And a lot of our students are advancing their programs. For instance, maybe they graduated as a medical assistant, but are now set to become an RN. Maybe they graduated as a pharmacy tech and now they're set to become a pharmacist

So it's not just a stagnant placement; it is someone who can grow and develop with a health system. In that way, we are bridging that gap between what's needed and what students can actually do, and I think it's an awesome platform.

What's a misconception people have about the program?

A common misconception that people have about Stepful is that we're not legit. They feel there's no way that a 16-week program can train someone adequately for a role in the field. And I get it — it sounds shady!

But trust me, it works.

The certification exam pass rates, the hire rates, student satisfaction, they all speak for themselves. We have the receipts! We have the ability to prove that our program is solid. So I understand the hesitation — you should do your research, look into it, and see if it's real.

From this end, I can promise you that it is, and that anyone who picks Stepful as their education provider is making a great choice.

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