7 Habits of Highly Effective Nurse Practitioner Students

While your nurse practitioner program will certainly direct your studies, it’s important you make the most of your classroom and clinical experience to get prepared for your career.  Maximizing your time in school will make the student to professional transition much smoother.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought modifying self-help guru Stephen Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People would offer excellent advice for nurse practitioner students.

Develop these habits during your nurse practitioner program whether you are a first year student or nearing graduation.  They will help you get the most out of your NP education.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Proactivity is especially important in your clinical experience.  If you aren’t involved and taking steps to actively learn, your clinical hours can quickly become more like job shadowing.  Ask questions of your clinical preceptors.  Learn how to do procedures.  If you perform to the high standards your preceptor demands from his or her employees rather than simply acting as a visitor in the clinic, you are sure to make a lasting impression.  Remember, proactivity in your clinical experiences can lead to valuable positive recommendations when looking for your first job.

Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind

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When you’re stuck with a mountain of papers to write and tests to study for in the middle of your NP program, it can be hard to remember that an actual NP career is the overall outcome of your program.  Prioritize coursework and studying towards those that will be most practical in your career.  Focus on understanding your cardiology lecture over the list of nursing theorists you are supposed to memorize.  Yes, grades are important but practical knowledge that will help you treat patients safely and effectively should be your main goal.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

7 Habits creator Stephen Covey advocates planning tasks “based on importance rather than urgency”.  Similarly to beginning with the end in mind, prioritize coursework that will help you become a better nurse practitioner in a practical sense rather than “fluff” courses.  Complete the requirements for all classes, of course, but focus your mental energy more on sound medical knowledge.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win 

As a student, it’s usually all about you.  In your clinical experience however, it’s important to get out of this mindset.  Your clinical preceptors are doing you a favor by allowing you to learn in their practice.  It’s not easy to be a preceptor and preceptors aren’t compensated financially by NP programs.  Make sure you are helpful to your host during your clinical hours.  Work hard.  Help with duties around the clinic.  Volunteer to help complete patient’s charts, do call-backs and process medication refill requests.  These are, after all, jobs you will also need to do when you become an NP yourself.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

This habit involves listening skills and having an open mind.  While it doesn’t translate specifically to life as a nurse practitioner student, it is important to have positive relationships with your classmates.  They serve as excellent future professional connections and an important source of support during your nurse practitioner program.  Develop deep, supportive and encouraging relationships with your NP program peers.  This way, your NP program will go much more smoothly.

Habit 6: Synergise

Teamwork is key in your nurse practitioner program.  As NP students, you and your peers are facing similar challenges.  Whether they be dreaded group projects or the stress of finding a clinical preceptor, work together rather than having a competitive attitude toward your coursework.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

By far my favorite habit, Covey recommends that everyone take time to renew resources, energy and health in order to develop a sustainable lifestyle.  As a student especially, it’s important to take time to yourself.  Go for a jog, read a book for fun on occasion, don’t neglect your hobbies completely while you are in school.  Even though balancing school, work and family can be tough, you will get burned out if you don’t take a little time every once in a while to relax and recharge.

Have you already started your nurse practitioner program?  If so, what habits do you find essential to getting through school?  Share your advice with fellow NP students by commenting below!


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8 thoughts on “7 Habits of Highly Effective Nurse Practitioner Students”

  1. I’m starting the NP program Jan 2014 these tips are going to be very helpful. Also wanted to know if you have heard anything about Chamberlain College of nursing, they recently started a FNP program online and just wanted to get your thoughts on it

  2. Hi Janelle,

    Congrats on starting your NP program soon!  I haven’t heard anything about Chamberlin’s new FNP program.  Does any one else out there have any experience with Chamberlin’s NP programs?

    1. "Didn't do so well - I needed more than 'to survive'. I needed to be prepared to get a job".

      I realize this question was posted many years ago, but I feel I should respond any way. I graduated from Chamberlain 2 years ago. I struggled finding clinical rotations, and had a few unfortunate “bad luck” things happen as well. All in all, I graduated feeling extremely unprepared. There was very little guidance or support when the obstacles began appearing and though I did well in the course work, I just did not benefit from the solid clinical work that I needed.
      Now, two years later, I am still looking for a FNP job, working as a RN and am losing hope as one more day passes. I am not able to go to California nor to the east coast where I could utilize an opportunity through ThriveAP. I volunteer when able, but am in that familiar trap of needing to provide an income.
      I would not recommend Chamberlain to anyone unless they have the skills already in hand, and are just needing the initials behind their name. It was a lot of work. It was a lot of money. It was a lot of time away from my family. Yes, I am a better nurse today. Education is ALWAYS beneficial. But I do not have the job that will support the student loans I will be paying, again, come the end of December. And I am discouraged with thoughts that this is not going to change.
      I am just an average person. I AM a good nurse. But this is because I care and am willing to do what is needed to meet the needs of my patients. I don’t shine because of my intellectual ability or have a mental capability that allows me to master a topic in half the time as the next guy. It is because I am willing to work harder or longer and I truly care about those people we call patients.
      But finding a FNP job? Needing the experience required to do so? Or bluffing through with an air of confidence that lands that job – until I actually have the skills and knowledge needed to see those 21 patients a day in the clinic??? I just haven’t been able to make it happen.
      Unfortunately, Chamberlain and the online environment that I was a part of, did not provide what I needed to overcome the challenges of becoming a nurse practitioner. Or at least – getting a job and functioning as one.

  3. You will do great!  Just remember, the most important part of your NP program is you clinical experience.  This is where you learn the most about being an NP and can apply your classroom knowledge to practice.  Focus on finding good clinical preceptors and this will go far in preparing you for your career.  

  4. I’m one year into the South University ANP program. So far it’s good. I’m about to start my practicums in April.
    I earned by BSN through Chamberlain College of Nursing. I loved it. The school didn’t have the NP program when I started though.

  5. adn-to-bsn-to FNP-MSN

    Thank you for the tips! I am 1 year from graduating from chamberlain fnp msn program, and I have survived. I like the flexibility and it is to be taken seriously.

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