Be Prepared! Nurse Practitioner Program Weed-out Courses

As much as I hate to admit it, my mom was right. While I hated, hated, hated pulling weeds as a kid it’s not such an arduous task as an adult. I’m not saying I like putting on dirt-caked gloves and braving hot, humid, Nashville, TN afternoons to do a little yard work, but when it’s your own home there’s something satisfying about a pristine landscape. As many nurse practitioners are aware, in a similar way, NP programs are picking through students even after enrollment making sure only those qualified to practice receive a diploma come graduation day.

Nurse practitioner programs are generally supportive and don’t have the cutthroat reputation of law or medical schools, for example. Most professors want NP students to succeed. But, inevitably, there are a few weed-out classes along the way making sure only the most committed students reach full fledged nurse practitioner status. Which courses do you need to be aware of in your NP program?

Anatomy and Physiology

By the time you get to your NP program, you’re pretty much prepared for an anatomy and physiology review, right? After all, you took the class at least once as part of your nursing education. Be ready for your nurse practitioner program to take things up a notch. It can be hard to recall everything you learned last time you were in school so some NP students find themselves over-confident going into their A&P courses only to be caught off guard by a poor grade on the first test of the semester.

If your nurse practitioner program doesn’t include an anatomy and physiology course, brush up before starting your program. A&P is the foundation of everything you will be learning for the coming year or two. Without a strong foundation you could find yourself falling behind in other courses.

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Like anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology is one of the backbones of your nurse practitioner education. These courses will teach you all things disease related, namely how illness and disease affect the body. Without a strong knowledge of pathophysiology, you won’t understand how to treat your future patients. So, pathophysiology courses warrant extra attention. If you don’t succeed in these often difficult classes you may have trouble come time for your NP clinicals.

Note that some schools disguise pathophysiology courses under another name such as “The Human Experience of Health and Illness”. Don’t let the less intimidating name fool you- these are still hard core patho courses and should be treated as such.


Being the science nerd that I am, I absolutely loved my pharmacology course. This is where the pieces of my medical education and my background in biology really came together. Pharmacology teaches you about medication classes and how these types of medications work in the body pulling from your anatomy and pathophysiology knowledge. They tie together research, science, and their practical implications for medicine.

The content of your pharmacology course will pull heavily from your biology, pathophysiology and anatomy knowledge, so beware, this can be a tough course. But, mastering these concepts is essential to guiding your future clinical practice.

Clinical Placements

Your clinical placements can be as difficult or as easy as you make them. You can sit back, relax, and treat them more like a job shadowing experience, or you can jump in, ask to participate in patient care as heavily as possible, and take notes throughout the day. Doing the latter is essential. If you don’t buckle down and work your tail off during your clinical hours, you won’t be prepared to work as a nurse practitioner come graduation day. And, doing your best in your clinical placements leads to positive recommendations that can be essential in finding your first NP job, or maybe even lead to a job opportunity in themselves.


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