How Do You Prioritize in Your NP Program?

Making time for all of your commitments, from work and family to paper-writing and projects in your nurse practitioner program is tough.  Yes, you could turn in a much more thorough paper, but it would have meant sacrificing time with your kids.  Sure, you could have studied a few flashcards for the big test discretely during your clinical hours this week but you would have missed out on the hands-on learning experience.  Which things are most important to focus on in your nurse practitioner program?

A nurse practitioner myself, I recall the time consuming task of writing care plans, composing essays, cramming for exams, spending endless frustrating hours attempting to comprehend patient care in my clinical placements all while trying to maintain some sort of life outside of school.  It’s not easy.  Now that I have completed my NP program, graduated and landed a successful career I can look back and see which parts of my education were most important.  Based on my experience, here are the three most important parts of your nurse practitioner education:

  1. Clinical Hours– Whether you dislike your clinical preceptor or are forced to dive two hours each way to your clinical site, your hands-on clinical experience is by far the most important part of your NP education.  This is where you gain real life practice experience.  Pour as much energy as you possibly can into this portion of your NP program.  Ask questions, work hard and seek to learn as much as possible.  Not only will this knowledge prove invaluable when you enter practice, your preceptor can serve as an influential recommendation source to your future employers.
  2. ‘Hard Medicine’ CoursesNurse practitioner programs are notorious for teaching excessive amounts of theory.  Sorry folks, no one is going to ask you about Margaret Newman’s Health as an Expanding Consciousness Theory on the job (if they do, you might need a new job).  When you face multiple deadlines or exams in the same timeframe, spend the most time perfecting your medical knowledge.  This will give you the greatest edge once you become a certified NP.
  3. National NP Certification Exam– Studying for the national nurse practitioner certification exam is a grizzly task.  It can be quite overwhelming.  After all, your ability to practice rides on this single test.  If you plan ahead and break down the study process, however, preparing for this exam can be quite manageable.  In the last year of your nurse practitioner program, or at least the last six months, start preparing for the NP certification exam.  Study questions are the best way to accomplish this.  Purchase a study guide and complete anywhere from 20 to 50 practice questions each day.  Make sure you understand the reasoning behind the questions you answer incorrectly.  This way, you will be well prepared avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming for this important exam.

If you place the most emphasis on these three aspects of you nurse practitioner program, you’ll be in good shape when you graduate.  Yes, you do still need to complete group projects and attend theory-based courses.  But, when making your study plan these can go to the bottom of the list.  Treat them as necessary but don’t make them your highest priority  By far, medical knowledge both from the hands-on clinical hours and hitting the books will prove most beneficial in your nurse practitioner career.


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