5 Ways to Excel in Your NP Program Clinical Experience

Fall is now in full swing which means one thing- first year nurse practitioner students are beginning their clinical experiences.  Finding a clinical placement is a major hurdle for some NP students to overcome, but once you have identified a provider willing to train you, there is still a lot of work to be done.  How can you maximize your NP clinical experience to make sure you are ready to practice?

Your first semester of clinicals can be pretty overwhelming.  All at once you are faced with a real live picture of how much you need to learn in the two or so years until you graduate.  This leaves some prospective NPs doubting their educational decisions and intimidated by their career choices.  But, there are a few practical steps you can take in your approach to your nurse practitioner clinical hours that will help you ride out the storm.

1. You don't have to learn it all at once

Most NP students find themselves overwhelmed at the beginning of their clinical experience.  Learning how to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical problems requires extensive education and experience.  It's important to remember you aren't expected to know everything day one.  To prevent yourself from becoming too overwhelmed, pick a few common medical problems seen in your clinical placement to focus on.  Become proficient diagnosing and treating these diagnoses, then master a few more.  Taking a step by step approach to your learning rather than drowning in a sea of information and self-doubt will be a more effective way to spend your clinical time. 

2.  Ask smart questions

Although you are completing required coursework during your clinical hours, your preceptors are actually at work.  Remember to act professionally and be respectful of their time and energy.  If you have simple questions that are easy to look up on your own, do so.  This way you can use your preceptors as a resource for harder questions and concepts.  They will appreciate you taking the initiative to be responsible for some of your own learning. 

3. Learn to do procedures

Learning to perform procedures as a new nurse practitioner is difficult.  There comes a time when you have to test your procedural skills for the first time on a real, live patient.  The best time to learn these skills is during your clinical experience.  Let your preceptor know it's important to you to learn how to suture and drain abscesses.  This way, when the opportunity presents itself, you will be able to learn these skills in a supportive, supervised environment rather than in your first job. 

4. Seek out a variety of providers as preceptors

You will likely have multiple clinical rotations throughout your NP education.  Even if you are allowed to remain with the same clinical preceptor throughout these rotations, you should change up your practice location at least once.  Learning from multiple medical providers exposes you to different views of practice.  This way, you will become a more well-rounded clinician.

5. Use your clinical experience to make professional connections

Making a good impression on your clinical preceptors will help you form valuable connections to others in the medical field.  Once you complete your NP program, you will be in the market for a job and these connections may help you land your first NP position.  The larger you can make your professional network, the more likely you are to find work quickly after graduation.

Are you currently working on your NP clinical hours?  What advice do you have for new NP students? 

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