By ThriveAP Intern and Aspiring NP Ashley Prince
If you’re like me then you have probably heard that shadowing a nurse practitioner is essential to your graduate school application at least one hundred times. You can also rattle off why it’s crucial like a robot. Unfortunately though, it can be difficult to find a nurse practitioner job shadowing opportunity.
Here are some tips I have used personally with doctors and nurse practitioners alike to secure a day of job shadowing. These opportunities will leave you with something much better than the generic “I want to become a family nurse practitioner so I can do everything” to write on your NP program application.
1. Ask anyone and everyone
Connections come from everywhere. One of my favorite job shadowing experiences came from an odd connection with an old high school teacher’s college roommate. Many of my opportunities for job shadowing have come from family friends who work in health care, and I have also asked my own healthcare providers if they are open to student observers. Most professionals are open to having students shadow them, probably because they remember what it was like trying to get a job shadowing experience. Be brave and ask!
2. Ask early
Hospital policies regarding student observers vary and are usually buried on a deep, secret link on their website that you will never find on your own. Some will require a TB skin test, orientation, and background check, while others will allow you to simply walk right in. You will need to plan accordingly to determine how much leg work you’re going to have to do before you can start shadowing.
3. If you’re shadowing in the OR, don’t touch the blue
If you’re job shadowing in the OR, don’t touch the blue. Seriously. Or, whatever color that particular institution uses to indicate that something is sterile. Don’t get too close to this sterile field to get a better view, in fact, don’t even breathe near it! Surgical docs and nurses are very carefully to maintain sterility during a surgical procedure, perhaps in part because we naive students have forced them to resterilize the OR a few too many times. If you can’t see what’s going on, ask for a step stool or talk to the resident, anesthesiologist, nurse etc. about any questions you have.
4. After every job shadowing experience, record what you have learned
Writing down everything you saw and what you learned during your job shadowing experience is a must. This gives you a great log to have on file and review for your general medical knowledge as well as reference on NP program applications. Even if you don’t quite understand all the gritty details quite yet. Your light bulb moment will come later during your nursing program.
5. Keep some comments to yourself
No matter how easy a technique looks or how simple a procedure was compared to what you imagined, never say so. The nurse practitioner you are shadowing has spent years perfecting his or her skills and your comment will sound rude, insulting, and ignorant. Trust me.
6. Say “Thank You”
Whether your experience with a particular provider was the best you’ve ever had or the worst, the nurse practitioner or other professional has taken time out of their day to host you, answer your questions, and teach you. A handshake at the end of the day is expected, but a well-written thank you card is the best way to show how grateful you are.
Tell us about your favorite and least favorite job shadowing memories by commenting!