3 Changes Nurse Practitioner Programs Must Make

Overall, nurse practitioner programs prepare aspiring NPs pretty well for their careers.  But, as those of us who have completed the transition from school to career have seen, there are certainly a few gaps in the nurse practitioner education.  What changes can NP programs make to prepare prospective nurse practitioners better for practice?

1. Increased Instruction on Performing Procedures

Learning how to perform procedures is pretty tough.  You can only practice suturing on so many bananas and pig’s feet before you have to test your newly acquired knotting skills on an actual patient.  If you don’t have the opportunity to learn these skills in your NP program, you will be forced to learn them on the job.  This isn’t easy.  Many offices are busy and asking another NP, PA or MD to take time away from their work to teach you how to drain an abscess or suture a wound is inconvenient.  Some of your coworkers may not be as open to teaching as others.  So, nurse practitioner programs need to step up their instruction regarding procedural skills.  Even if it proves difficult to fit these skills into the curriculum, offering optional weekend clinics or evening classes would help students find the time to maser procedural work while avoiding the stress of on the job learning in their first NP positions.

2. More Hard Medical Science, Less Theory

If you are like me, you dread nursing theory courses.  Since I don’t have a desire to teach and I am more of a science-minded individual, taking multiple theory courses throughout my NP program seemed like such a waste.  Rather, my time would have been better spent mastering subjects like physiology and pharmacology which are directly applicable to my practice.  Nurse practitioners sometimes get a bad rap because their education doesn’t contain enough hard care medical and science courses.  It’s hard to argue with this position as it’s true, NP programs spend too much time on theory and not enough on more rigorous, science-based instruction.

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3. Teach the Structure of the Healthcare System

As we’ve seen in the news recently, healthcare is becoming increasingly complex.  Healthcare not only operates on a business level but also a personal and political level.  To truly understand the healthcare system, you not only need to excel in your practice as an NP by understanding the human body and disease, but also have an awareness of the ins and outs of how different private and government insurance plans work.  You must stay up to date on the latest political news and deduce how new legislation will impact your practice.  It’s not easy to understand the different layers of the healthcare system.

Nurse practitioner programs need to include courses teaching the basics of how the healthcare system works.  A basic introduction to health policy would go far in helping nurse practitioners navigate the world of healthcare throughout their careers.

If you’ve noticed that your NP program is lacking in these areas, be an agent of change.  Faculty need to know how students feel and understand their concerns for entering practice.  Express your angst about graduating without learning to suture or your desire to learn more about the basic structure of the healthcare system.  This way, NP programs will improve for future students.

Most nurse practitioner programs do an excellent job of preparing NP students for their careers.  But, there are a few gaps, common among most nurse practitioner programs, that must be filled in order to better prepare NPs for practice.


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1 thought on “3 Changes Nurse Practitioner Programs Must Make”

  1. I agree with you completely! I am completing my BSN program now and will then start in a DNP program. I am shocked at the amount of ‘Theory’ that is in the DNP program. For example a 4 credit ($3000.00) class that requires reading countless abstracts and articles to determine the ‘mood’ i.e. is this patient ‘happy, sad’ etc. HOW does this help me become an NP? Such a waste of time and money if you ask me.

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