5 Tips for Starting Your NP Program Off on the Right Foot

If you’re heading into a nurse practitioner program this year, congrats! Making the decision to further your education isn’t an easy one. Your motivation and enthusiasm will take you far as you kick off the semester. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to stay focused as the school year wears on. To set yourself up for nurse practitioner school success, here is some advice based on my own NP program experience.

1. Plan Ahead for Assignments

Graduate school is a mess of papers, projects, exams, and, for nurse practitioner students, clinical hours. Together, these assignments can add up to make for a super stressful schedule. Manage your time effectively by looking ahead at your schedule. If you notice a week that looks particularly hectic, work ahead. Map out when you will complete tests and projects in your planner so you don’t get slammed at the end of the semester (these chic agendas can help). Avoiding procrastination will be to your benefit. 

2. Bond with Classmates

Even if you are attending a primarily online nurse practitioner program, make an effort to get to know your classmates. Plan a back to school happy hour or organize a class intramural kickball team. Relationships with classmates are key to your nurse practitioner school success. These individuals may share notes with you on sick days, let you hitch a ride to class when you have car trouble etc. Not to mention, it’s always nice to have someone to commiserate with during finals week. 

3. Identify Clinical Sites Early

If your nurse practitioner program requires that students identify their own clinical preceptors, the time to start looking was yesterday. In many locations, clinical sites can be difficult to come by. Begin your preceptor search as soon as possible so that lack of a clinical site doesn’t delay your graduation. Getting a head start on landing a preceptor also helps you avoid the time and stress of doing so amidst the busier mid-year class schedule. Once you do start your clinical experience, follow these tips for clinical excellence

4. Get to Know Your Profs

Professional connections will be invaluable to you as you start your nurse practitioner career. From serving as references to helping out with a future job search, faculty at your school will be helpful far beyond the lecture hall. Get to know a few faculty members in your nurse practitioner program. This connection can be made by asking for help during office hours, in the smaller classroom setting, or over a cup of coffee. Intentionally develop a professional relationship with a few such individuals at your school. Not only will these relationships be helpful should you struggle academically, they will also come in handy post-graduation as you take next steps in your career.

5. Prioritize Appropriately

During my time as a nurse practitioner student, I noticed many of my classmates struggling. They felt like they were drowning under mounds of projects, and pages upon pages of assigned textbook reading. You can’t give each and every assignment or exam your all in nurse practitioner school. It simply isn’t possible. So, prioritize (and use these study hacks). Spend the most time on coursework that is directly related to your clinical career. Focus energy on your clinicals rather than arbitrary assignments, as working with patients face-to-face is what you will be doing as an NP.

As a nurse practitioner student, you can expect some ups and downs this back to school season. Don’t get discouraged. Keep your head up. And, remember, fall break isn’t that far away!


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