Nurse Extern Program

The D.R.E.A.M. Nurse Externship Program

Diversity – Retention – Equality – Aspire – Mentor

The DREAM Nurse Externship Program is an enrichment program sponsored by UC San Diego Health in collaboration with Southwestern Community College, City College and Grossmont Community College.

DREAM Program Mission

Our mission is to create, nurture and sustain an inclusive nursing workforce that meets the needs of our diverse patient population.

Nurse Externship Program Overview

Take advantage of the opportunity to study at the area's only academic health system. UC San Diego Health offers student nurse externships in spring, summer and fall semesters at our Hillcrest and La Jolla locations.

Placement opportunities will be based on the unit's needs and availability each semester. Managers may assess extern students as potential candidates for UC San Diego Health’s New Graduate Nursing Program.

While our externships are unpaid volunteer positions, select participants will be eligible to apply for a per-diem senior nurse aide position within the inpatient medicine division.

What You'll Learn

This 12-week externship program offers instruction to nursing students to develop their understanding of the professional clinical nurse role. You will be coached on:

  • Nursing profession
  • Relationship-based care
  • Personal brand
  • Simulation skills lab experience
  • Health literacy / health care disparities
  • Shadow experience
  • Health care and technology
  • Diversity and cultural competence
  • Nursing and the community
  • Research- and evidence-based practices
  • Professional communication and presentation skills

Where You'll Work

Extern positions are usually available in the following units:

  • Emergency Department ICU (must have prior ICU coursework and experience)
  • Medical/Surgical, PCU (Progressive Care Units)
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatric Services
  • Woman and Infant Services
  • Other (used for students who have a strong area of interest in a unit not listed)

Program Highlights

  • Semester-length program
  • 120 hours
  • RN preceptors
  • Clinical experiences available in various areas of interest
  • Extension of externship may be possible (pending manager approval)

DREAM Program Mission

Our mission is to create, nurture and sustain an inclusive nursing workforce that meets the needs of our diverse patient population.

Program Eligibility

  • Be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or legal permanent resident
  • Be in underrepresented population in nursing
  • Be enrolled in the 3rd semester of nursing school during the 2022-2023 academic year
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale (as demonstrated by an official transcript)
  • Have the ability to attend all UC San Diego Health didactic class sessions

Externs must also meet two of the following three criteria:

  • Be an underrepresented minority in nursing
  • Would be the first generation in their family to graduate from an accredited college or university
  • Demonstrate financial need.*
    Use these federal poverty guidelines

*Students can initially self-report family income levels if they apply to the program. However, at a later date, students accepted into the program may be asked to provide documentation. Acceptable forms of documentation will be communicated upon acceptance.

Program Requirements

  • Enrollment in a nursing program that has an active clinical affiliation at UCSD through the Allied Health Professions Education Committee (AHPEC-N).
  • Enrollment in an externship course through their school’s nursing program.
  • Students are eligible to participate during their final two semesters. (In most cases, the application deadline will be before your final two semesters.)
  • Provide evidence of valid health insurance and professional liability insurance, Complio Immunization and Background Compliance Report and other required documentation.

Application Process

  • The 2023-2024 DREAM Externship application cycle will be open from 04/15/23 and close 05/15/23
  • UC San Diego Health makes the final selections based on the strength of the student's entire application, including GPA, transcript, written essay, letters of reference and interview.
  • For more information please email the DREAM Coordinators:

Fill out the 2023-2024 DREAM application


PLEASE NOTE: UC San Diego Health does not discriminate in admission, employment or administration of its programs or activities on the basis of age, gender, race, national origin, religion, creed, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, ethnicity, ancestry, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law. In addition, UC San Diego Health administers all programs and services without regard to disability and provides reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified disabled individuals.