4 Tips for Making the Most of Your Nurse Practitioner Program

If you’re a nurse practitioner student, you’re downright busy. From coursework to clinicals, holding down a job and making time for friends and family, you likely don’t have energy left in the day for extras. You’re barely making it as it is. The temptation in such circumstances can be to slide by doing the bare minimum to stay afloat. I’ve been there. Given all the challenges NP students face, prioritizing and focus is a must. Come graduation day, those who take steps to maximize their nurse practitioner education will be the most prepared for employment. How can you make the most of the time you spend on your NP education?

1. Be a contributor 

Making a good impression is essential when you’re on site in your clinical assignments. Preceptors serve as excellent references when it comes time to land your first nurse practitioner job. Not to mention, this hands-on training is the best way your NP program is preparing you for your new role in patient care. Naturally, as a student, you’re on the receiving end of the goodwill of a provider who has agreed to participate in your training. This individual is sacrificing his or her time to help you out. So, return the favor. 

Do what you can to assist around the clinic or on the hospital floor. Regularly check in with your preceptor to make sure you’re getting things done in the manner to which the he or she prefers. Seek out opportunities to be a team player while you’re on a clinical site. Not only does this lead to an excellent rec, your preceptor will notice the effort and be all the more willing to go out of the way to teach you and participate in your education. 

2. Prioritize clinical coursework 

The curriculum in nurse practitioner programs can be intense. From writing essays on scope of practice regulations and nursing theory to memorizing advanced anatomy and taking pharmacology exams, the content of your NP program is vast. Having a focus as you approach your learning is helpful. Based on my own experience, it’s most helpful to prioritize coursework that relates directly to patient care. Sure, your nursing theory homework is essential to achieve a passing grade, but spend the most time mastering content that relates directly to the medical side of your NP career. This is what you’ll need for in-the-moment patient care. 

3. Build a professional network

It’s natural to focus inwardly as a nurse practitioner student. You’ve got a lot to manage. But, take some time to foster relationships outside of your NP program from time to time. Life as a student is temporary. Developing professional rapport with preceptors, other providers you meet in the clinical setting and your local nurse practitioner community will prove invaluable when it comes time for you to kick off your career. Start by joining a local nurse practitioner organization and attending meetings. Or, make a concerted effort to talk with each provider in the clinic where you’re completing your clinical hours. Don’t forget to get contact information for these individuals so you can check in periodically…like when you’re looking to land your first NP job.  

4. Choose clinical sites carefully 

You may not have many options when it comes to clinical sites, but whenever possible it’s essential to maximize these experiences. Clinicals are the gateway for putting your book knowledge to the test. So, seek out broad, foundational experiences that will give you the most exposure to different types of patients and diagnoses. Even if you have a niche interest, as an NP student you’re laying the foundation for your career. And, you never know where your career will lead you. Ask students who are ahead of you in your program which preceptors have been the most helpful and request to be matched with these individuals. Even if your school isn’t able to accommodate all of your requests, it never hurts to ask! 

If you’re a nurse practitioner, what tips do you have for NP students looking to make the most of their education?


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