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22 Essential Tips to Survive Nurse Practitioner School


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Trying to balance school, your work life, and your social life while going to nurse practitioner school can be tricky. Sometimes you may feel like you are walking a tightrope just to balance it all. Well, rest assured I have some tips that can help you deal with some of the most challenging aspects of earning a nurse practitioner degree. Keep reading below to learn the 22 essential tips that will help you survive and thrive in nurse practitioner school.


Following are the 22 Essential Tips to Help You Survive & Thrive in Nurse Practitioner School


1) Make friends in your NP program


One of the key elements to surviving any difficult situation is surrounding yourself with like-minded, supportive people. What better than to surround yourself with people who are going through the same thing as you. This will end up being a group that you can lean on for support, such as studying, group projects, or just having a venting session with.

2) Take a good look at your finances


Before beginning an NP program, it is best to look at your finances so you can plan what is coming down the road. You will need to assess if you will have to take out loans to pay for school. If you will have to take out loans, you will need to come up with a solid game plan of how you are going to pay then back. It is best to figure this out beforehand so your finances don’t become an added stressor.

3) Invest in quality resources


Quality resources will help you through school and your clinical practice once you are an NP. These resources will help with your diagnosis and treatment plans for your patients. Having a quality resource will cut down on the amount of time you are searching the internet to find answers. Make sure whatever resources you choose; they are comprehensive and up to date. Some examples of the type of resources you will want are a physician’s desk reference and drug book.

4) Start using a calendar


A calendar is a great way to keep your head straight about any upcoming assignments and exams. When it comes time for your clinical rotations, a calendar will help you with your clinical days and class days staying organized. You may also find a calendar helpful when planning time to study and time where you just relax with friends and family.

5) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!


Effective communication skills is an essential tool to help you thrive in any situation. You should always communicate with your instructors about anything you are struggling with or if you are having a conflict meeting any of your deadlines. If you communicate with your instructor, you may find that he or she will be understanding and help you work through the problem.

6) Search for your clinical site early


Not all nurse practitioner programs find you your clinical site. If you know this is the case with your program, prepare early and start contacting healthcare sites so that you will not be trying to squeeze all your hours in, in such a small amount of time. Also remember, “the early bird gets the worm.” You will also have to compete with others who are looking for their clinical sites so the early you start the better.

7) Try to get the most out of your clinical experience


Clinical time is the best place to see what you have been studying in books in action. It is also a great place to learn from those in the field. Ask questions! Challenge yourself and try to push yourself to see the whole patient by putting it all together, the diagnosis, the labs, and the treatments. Clinical sites are also a great place to network. You never know if they will be hiring by the time you graduate.

8) Don’t give up


I’m sure that at one point during your journey to becoming an NP, you may feel you want to give up. Everybody gets frustrated sometimes, but the key is to step back and take a breath. This too shall pass. Just think about how proud you will be of yourself on graduation day.

9) Be proactive


Being proactive will be ever so important in your clinical experiences. Seek out opportunities to learn actively. Ask questions. Do not shy away if there is an opportunity to perform a procedure. This is your time to soak up all there is to learn, you just have to go and get it.

10) Utilize support services


Most institutions will have support services on hand to help you succeed in NP school. These may be tutoring services or a writing center. If the support services offered by your institution is not really quite what you need, you should always contact your professor for help. Your professor may have resources that you did not even know were available.

11) Become involved with Nurse Practitioner organizations


By becoming involved in professional organizations, you will have the ability to meet people who are already practicing in the profession. These professional contacts may be helpful for you in terms of clinical placements, job seeking, and to further your support system. Some examples of the organizations are the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Association for Continuing Education, and the International Council for Nurse Practioners. You can also find organizations for Nurse Practitioners based on your state and your concentration.

12) Don't' be afraid to ask family and friends for help


You may find that trying to balance school, work, and your everyday life may make you stressed on its own. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need somebody to run an errand for you, or maybe you just need them to act as your patient for the day for one of your assignments. Try not to do everything on your own. Having somebody alleviate just one item off your list can make you feel so much better.

13) Take time for yourself


I know, easier said than done. Sometimes you just may need to step away from all of your studies, decompress and relieve your stress. Go for a walk, practice yoga, go to dinner with a friend, do anything that you enjoy that is not studying. You will be so surprised how this break can reenergize you.

14) Make sure you are getting enough sleep


Lack of sufficient sleep has shown poor academic outcomes in students. Getting enough sleep is critical to your cognitive function, how you process information, and how much new information you will remember. Running on empty when it comes to sleep will make getting through school a lot harder.

15) Eat a healthy diet


Keeping your belly full of healthy food will keep your mid going strong. Eating a healthy diet has been correlated with better academic performance. Yes, I know that fast food is so much easier, but it does not provide you with the fuel you need to achieve your goal successfully.

16) Know your program and the requirements


If you are familiar with what is expected of you in your NP program, then you will not be surprised when you are called to meet deadlines. Familiarize yourself with what coursework, clinical hours, and exams must be successfully completed before graduation.

17) Set priorities


If your ultimate goal is to become a Nurse practitioner, then you may have to sacrifice certain things in your life. I’m not saying that you need to put your entire social life on hold, but when you are faced with a big exam and a concert, you may need to rethink going to the concert and cracking your books.

18) Value constructive criticism


It would be best if you learned that constructive criticism is not meant to hurt or discourage you. It is something that can be used to enhance your learning. Look at these types of critiques as a way to fine-tune your work. Critiques are meant to help you improve your practice.

19) Set goals for yourself


Goals are so important because they are equivalent to your progress. Accomplishing the goals you have set forth, whether they are big or small, can help you push forward and feel good about yourself.

20) Do not fall behind on your course work


Staying up to date on your course work will help you to be successful in nurse practitioner school. If you start procrastinating, your work will keep building up till eventually, everything comes tumbling down. Think of it as an avalanche. You will also end up with subpar work because you are so rushed to complete everything.

21) Do not compare yourself to others


Becoming an NP is a journey that is individual to you. Do not base your failures and wins in comparison with your classmates. Remember, everybody's path will look different before, during, and after grad school.

22) Keep the end in sight


I know sometimes it definitely will not feel like it, but all of your hard work will pay off. If you keep the end in sight, then you will have something to strive for during those rocky times.


Conclusion


Surviving and thriving in Nurse Practioner School can sometimes feel like an enormous feat, but it does not have to be. Utilizing these essential tips to survive NP school will help you to alleviate any stressors you may feel. Now that you have the tools to help you succeed, go out and earn that degree!


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.