Clinicals are one of the most dreaded and time consuming parts of nurse practitioner school.  Not only do you have to spend the day at your clinic or hospital assignment, you have to go home and spend at least an hour writing about it afterward.  It can be very tempting to passively follow your preceptor while sipping your coffee, wondering what the drug reps are bringing for lunch and contemplating whether or not you are going to make it to Happy Hour later.  My advice: don’t waste your clinical time! (I do, however support going to Happy Hour after clinicals)

Use clinicals to your advantage.  When you graduate, you may be left alone at the clinic to treat patients on your own.  Are you going to be ready?  Use your nurse practitioner clinical expereince to help you become great at what you do.  You are attending your nurse practitioner program because you hope to become employed as a nurse practitioner; use your clinical experience to your advantage.  Clinical instructors are one of the best sources of job recommendations so excel!

How do you make the most of your nurse practitioner clinical experience?  Bring a notebook and write things down as you learn them.  This helps you to remember them later.  When you have questions, write them down so you can look them up at the end of the day.

Ask smart questions.  Your preceptors are actually at work.  They are getting paid for what they do and the number pf patients they see so their time is valuable.  If you don’t know something but can easily look it up when you go to lunch or get home, write it down and look it up later.  For example, if you can’t recall the mechanism of action of a specific drug, look it up later.  If you have a complex question or a question about a treatment plan, then do ask your preceptor.

Be proactive.  You will not learn if you do not do things yourself.  If you want to learn how to suture, watch it once then ask to do it on your own with supervision from your preceptor next time.  You are going to have to do things on your own at some point so start now!  It is much better to ask your preceptor who has volunteered to teach you than track down a busy coworker and beg for help in your first job.  You will look unprepared to your employer (and you are!).

Clinicals lead to future employment connections, positive recommendations and gaining nurse practitioner experience.  You may have a long commute, work with someone you don’t like and be exhausted at the end of the week.  That’s OK.  Approach nurse practitioner clinicals energetically and be willing to learn.  Work hard.  It will be worth it.

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