Best Ways for Aspiring Nurse Practitioners to Spend the Summer

Hands down, my favorite summer job ever was working at a local ice cream shop. The purple ramshackle joint had a giant cow statue positioned outside the front door and a kitchen of sorts in the back where homemade ice cream was churned. I can still taste the seasonal flavors like cantaloupe and coconut not to mention good ‘ole fashioned rocky road. Happy customers and free treats were enough to land this job at the top of my list of summer work experiences.

While specializing in dairy desserts doesn’t seem like it would confer any value toward my future career in medicine, I learned a remarkable amount during my employment. Interacting with customers helped me develop my people skills. Working as a nurse practitioner involves constant customer interfacing. As an added bonus, my employer wrote me a killer letter of recommendation for future jobs and college applications.

If you’re a college student, chances are you’re in the process of getting your summer plans in place. While you might feel like a long, relaxing break is in order, summer can be an excellent time to put some effort into setting up your future career. One frustration among pre-nursing, nursing, and aspiring nurse practitioner students is that relevant experience in the medical field may be hard to come by. Here are a few summer employment opportunities and activities to consider that boost your nursing related resume.

1. Land a job or internship with direct patient care experience

Jobs for college students working directly with patients can be difficult to come by, but there are a few out there. Contact local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to see if they could use some summer help. You may even consider getting your medical assisting certificate for a more involved patient care option.

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Getting licensed as a phlebotomist is relatively easy and affordable and can give you the inside edge on a summer hospital or clinic position. EMT programs, while competitive to get in to, can also be completed during the school year. Work as an EMT gives you solid clinical experience to showcase on your resume.

2.  Get involved in research

As a high school student, I landed a summer job in a research lab at an area blood bank. I assisted in the process of isolating certain proteins from platelets as well as investigating genetic mutations in red blood cells. While my name didn’t make an appearance in any of the final research publications, it was an amazing experience both personally and professionally.

If you live in close proximity to a university, a position working in scientific research may be within reach. While you may function as the lab lackey finding yourself washing beakers and whipping up Drosophila feed (another of my summertime gigs), working directly in a research lab is an invaluable experience. It exposes you to scientific innovation, increases your knowledge of the core sciences, and gives your resume a competitive edge. Reach out to current professors for connections to help you land a summer research position. In some locations, companies in the private sector may offer summer research internships as well.

3. Job shadow

Job shadowing is by far the best way to know if a career as a nurse practitioner is right for you. Even if you’re pretty sure you want to become an NP, getting an inside look into the daily life of a medical provider is invaluable. You can reference this experience on future college or grad school essays as well as get a head start on your medical education. All careers have positives and negatives. Job shadowing will offer you an unfiltered look at your prospective profession. Ask friends and family if they know of a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or physician who would be willing to show you around for a few hours.

4. Volunteer locally or internationally

If you can’t find a paid position tied to the medical field (or don’t need one), consider improving your clinical know how with a volunteer opportunity. Local organizations like the Red Cross often offer volunteer experiences. Or, consider using one of your hobbies to work with a specific population in medical need. You may be able to use foreign language skills interpreting for a health center. Organizations like Achilles International pair individuals with disabilities such as blindness with able-bodied athletes so they can exercise side-by-side.

On an international scale, programs like Global Bridges and Mercy Ships offer medical volunteer opportunities abroad. Be prepared to pay your own way for these kinds of opportunities.

5. Brush up your foreign language skills

Bilingual nurse practitioners are in high demand. From Spanish to Chinese and Polish, practices across the country are in need of NPs who can communicate effectively with specific patient populations. If you have some baseline foreign language skills, spend your summer working on improving your abilities. Consider doing so through a volunteer opportunity like tutoring. Children often make the best teachers when it comes to mastering a foreign language.

6. Prepare for upcoming standardized tests

If you are an aspiring nurse practitioner still in high school, it’s never too early to start preparing for the SAT. If you’re grad school bound, studying for the GRE should be at the top of your to-do list. Many nurse practitioner programs require that students complete some form of standardized testing, usually the GRE. Scores on this test are a determining factor in NP program admissions decisions, so study up!

7. Relax and rejuvenate!

You don’t want to kick off your nurse practitioner career with a baseline of complete burnout. So, take a few weeks for some much needed R&R this summer. Whether this means delaying the start date of your summer job for a week or two after school ends, or taking a week off before the school year begins, plan some time for friends, family, and yourself in the coming months.

How do you plan to spend your summer?


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