If you are thinking about going back to school to become a nurse practitioner, selecting a NP program is a big part of your decision. Cost, specialty, location, and schedule are the most important factors aspiring nurse practitioners consider in their education decision. If you still find yourself stuck after taking these deal-breakers into account, identify additional qualities that make NP programs stand out to differentiate between your options.
As someone who’s survived a nurse practitioner program and has several years of career experience to look back on, I’ve identified a few less common NP school offerings that serve students well in their future careers, not to mention, make for a more enjoyable graduate school experience.
1. Identification of Clinical Sites
Fewer and fewer nurse practitioner schools identify preceptors on behalf of students. Rather, they leave the responsibility of selecting clinical sites to students. This places additional stress on students, can lead to a sub-par clinical experience, and may even delay graduation. If at all possible, attend a nurse practitioner program that assigns clinical preceptorships.
2. Career Services
Nurse practitioner programs may do an excellent job of preparing students for clinical work, however many fall short when it actually comes time to help grads find a job. From creating the perfect resume to preparing for interviews, as a new nurse practitioner graduate you will have questions about getting your career started. Schools offering career services, especially services tailored specifically to healthcare providers, deserve a second look.
3. Skills Training
If you are applying to nurse practitioner programs, inquire as to the depth of skills training included in the curriculum. Many nurse practitioner new grads receive little education when it comes to interpreting diagnostic tests like X-rays and ECGs. Students also commonly comment that NP programs lack procedural training leaving gaps in their education when it comes to skills like suturing. Nurse practitioner schools that include procedural skills and diagnostic interpretation as part of the curriculum are sure to leave you better prepared for practice.
4. Expert Lecturers
Some of my best clinical learning in the classroom came from guest lecturers. My NP program instructors were highly qualified, however learning about different body systems, pathologies, diagnoses, and treatments from experts like medical specialists made for more in depth instruction. Ask NP programs of interest how your courses will be taught. Clinical curriculum that involves presentations from field experts is a plus.
The rise of online nurse practitioner programs is leaving an increased number of NP students feeling disconnected from both student and professional communities. You may not like group projects, but having classmates to collaborate with whether socially or for study sessions, adds richness to the nurse practitioner education experience. Seek out a school that fosters relationships among nurse practitioner students. Even if you only occasionally connect with your classmates, a community environment offers you support as a student and valuable professional connections for your future career.
NP students – what do you recommend applicants look for in a nurse practitioner program?