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Prospective Site Directors Information & Application

Presently, we have more than a sufficient number of sites available to meet the needs of our students. New site applications are welcome; however, potential new sites will be placed on a waiting list to be considered only after space is vacated by one or more of our current sites. Priority will be given to sites in the area of primary eye care and those remote sites that also offer low- or no-cost housing to the student for their use during the assigned rotation.

Thank you for your interest in our externship program. Official information and applications follow. Please email any correspondence to the Director of Externships, Dr. Alexandra M. Espejo, OD, FAAO.

For a new site application packet go to the application form.

Externship Site Information

The externship program of Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry provides fourth-year students with hands-on experience in the clinical practice of optometry. In all cases, full-spectrum optometric care is the goal. Depending upon the site, additional emphasis may be placed on specialty areas of practice, including, but not limited to: binocular vision and pediatrics, contact lenses, sports vision, vision rehabilitation, ocular disease, geriatrics and nursing home care, and surgical co-management. Externship sites are selected on the basis of the quality of clinical experience they may provide to students. Mutual agreement to a series of requisites is necessary before a practice/facility may be designated as an externship site.

Each site will appoint a single practitioner to be responsible for student education at the particular facility (the site coordinator). This individual will arrange for and provide a diversified clinical experience for all externs and will, where applicable, provide a basic understanding of and familiarity with management concepts of the practice. In addition, he or she will hold regular case discussions and/or require presentations or attendance at presentations designed to enhance the students‚  general knowledge.

The site coordinator will work in conjunction with a designated representative of the College to ensure that proper guidance, instruction, and periodic evaluation are afforded to each student. The site will retain responsibility for patient care while permitting students to review the patient history and complaints, conduct examination procedures, and discuss treatment and management options with the attending physician. The site will make available to the students all clinical facilities, staff, and services necessary for sound educational training. The site coordinator is responsible for assigning mid-term and final grades to each extern, and where appropriate, a 2-week initial evaluation, particularly if a student's performance is below expected. These evaluations will address various areas of the student's performance, and suggestions for improving overall performance are required if an unfavorable grade is contemplated. Dates for submission of grade reports will be provided to each site prior to the beginning of the academic year (May).

In turn, the College will establish and retain control of the formal curriculum, providing a mechanism to document students' educational progress for the purpose of academic credit. The College will make known to all prospective students the availability, location, and pertinent characteristics of all externship sites, such that an informed selection may be made. The College will arrange for and ensure that suitable and qualified students are assigned to each externship site. The College will help to enforce all rules and regulations of the facility as they pertain to student clinicians and will provide professional liability coverage for all students assigned under the agreement.

In the event that an assigned student's continued participation in the externship program is no longer desired by a site, the College agrees to withdraw that student provided written notification is given by the facility's Program Coordinator. This will result in a grade of failing for that student for that rotation.

Student clinicians will abide by all rules, regulations, and policies of the facility to which they are assigned. They will attend all assigned clinical sessions, discussions, or presentations as designated by the site coordinator. Vacation days or other time off must be pre-arranged with the site coordinator, as the students assigned to externships do not follow the Academic Calendar published by the College. The students will conduct themselves in a professional manner consistent with the ethical and moral standards of optometric physicians. The students will carry out all assignments as indicated by the site coordinator and/or the College and will keep a detailed log of all patient encounters in which they participated at the site during the training period. (The encounter log is currently web-based; access to a computer with internet service would be desirable).

All financial responsibilities for commuting, housing, and other living costs will be borne by the student; no monetary compensation to the student by the facility is required or sanctioned. However, sites may directly provide housing or meals at low or no cost to the student, if so desired.

Selection and Assignment Process

Only students who are in good academic standing will be permitted to commence externship training; those individuals who have demonstrated poor clinical or didactic abilities during the third year will be required to repeat the failed curriculum prior to beginning the fourth year. Third-year students are made aware of the various externship sites via resources maintained by the Director of Externships (e.g., copy material, internet websites) and at a formal presentation, held during the fall semester, to which all site coordinators are invited. Students are encouraged to visit the sites, meet with the site coordinators, and consult with student clinicians currently enrolled in the externship programs. The students may then request sites that they feel best suit their professional interests, learning styles, and personal needs or concerns. Students are assigned to sites according to their academic standing for the first two years, and clinical evaluations received during the third year -- those students who possess the best overall standing generally receive their first choice. A team of educators who are familiar with the students and the sites reviews all of the assignments to ensure that the selections are appropriate. Prior to the beginning of the training periods, the site coordinators will be informed of the students under his or her charge.

Evaluation Procedures

All students will receive a mid-rotation evaluation, as well as a final evaluation by the Program Coordinator. Some students, particularly those who are in jeopardy of failure or whose performance is not at an expected level will also receive a 2-week evaluation. The evaluation forms allow for assessment of the various clinical skills and cognitive abilities, without the necessity of assigning an overall number or letter grade. Site coordinators must submit final evaluations to the Externship Director within one week of the end of each externship rotation.

Student clinicians are likewise required to evaluate the externship site with regard to the Program Director, the facility, and the overall educational experience. The student evaluations are not taken into account in the determination of grades, however they are utilized in the continuing assessment of the quality of the Externship Program. Additionally, they are helpful in guiding future externs in their selection process.


Students will abide by the scheduled activities of the site to which they are assigned. The College Academic Calendar has no bearing whatsoever on the externship site schedule, except for requirements such as national boards and graduation activities. Vacation or other time off must be arranged with the approval of the site coordinator, and such time must not exceed one week (five working days) per rotation. Unexcused absences, or any other unprofessional or disruptive behavior, subject the student to dismissal from the site, with a resulting grade of F (failing).

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