Tips for Finding the Right Nurse Practitioner Program
Applying to nurse practitioner (NP) school is a huge next step in your nursing journey. The program that you plan to attend can change the trajectory of not only the next few years of your life, but could potentially impact the rest of your career. There are many factors to consider when choosing which nurse practitioner program to apply for to ensure that you can take the leap with confidence. So, how can you be sure that you choose the right program to accomplish your goals?
Online vs. Face-to-Face
How do you learn best? Surrounded by your classmates in a classroom with a professor lecturing? On your own time laying in bed in your pajamas? There are many reasons why each of these options may sound enticing, but you have to think about what works best for you and your situation. Maybe you need structure, have taken an online class in the past and didn’t do so well, or computers and technology stress you out. If any of these apply, then an online program may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, maybe you have completed an online degree in the past that you excelled at, or life is extremely busy for you right now and you will have to study into the hours of the night. If that’s the case, online programs may be a better fit for your lifestyle - particularly if you have a family or will continue to work through your schooling. Hybrid programs that contain a mix of both on-campus and online learning are also becoming more popular and should be considered. Many consider the hybrid option the “best of both worlds.” Choosing how to complete your program is a very important decision that could determine your success in this next endeavor.
Clinical experiences are an extremely important (if not the most important) aspect of NP school. Some schools help find clinical placements for their students and/or have affiliations with large healthcare systems where their students complete clinical rotations. Other schools leave it up to the students to find their own placement, which can be very difficult and feel almost impossible.
If the school requires students to find their own clinical placement, it can be very helpful to research the types of clinical experiences that are available and within a reasonable distance to the school. For example, if you are in an NP program that requires pediatric clinical experience but there is only one small pediatric office in the area, this could be a problem if the school does not help secure your clinical placement. Speaking with other students to hear about their experiences with clinical placements can be informative.
Keep in mind that some online NP programs will allow students to complete their clinical rotations in a facility close to the student’s home (particularly if the student lives far away from the campus). In these cases, the placement will need to be approved by the program prior to the rotation.
Attending and graduating from a properly accredited school can make or break a candidate in the running for a job. Research the accreditation status and history of any schools you plan to apply to and know when they are due for re-accreditation. When looking at the accreditation history, pay careful attention to whether they have ever lost or had their accreditation suspended, why, and how they fixed the issue that caused this suspension. When asking about re-accreditation, inquire about any topics that have caused them to be in jeopardy in the past, and what they are currently doing to ensure they will stay accredited and avoid suspension in the future.
You want instructors with pediatric experience teaching a pediatrics class, and instructors with acute care experience teaching an acute care class. Faculty experience could change your entire educational trajectory. Inquire about the faculty at your school of interest. Ask who teaches which classes and what type of work and educational background they have. You want to ensure that you are receiving high quality education from faculty with appropriate backgrounds.
Completing school doesn’t mean anything if you can’t pass board exams. Passing these examinations is critical to becoming board-certified and landing that dream job you have worked so hard for. Find out about your school’s pass rates for boards. There are many different board certifications that NPs can take. Make sure you review all of the numbers and data for all of the board exams available for your program of interest.
There are so many nurse practitioner programs available to attend. Taking these tips into consideration can help guide your decision to make the right choice that will fit into your lifestyle, help you obtain the experience and degree that you desire, and feel confident in your new career. Do your research and apply to your dream school that will equip you with the education that you need to provide safe and excellent care to your patients in your new role as an advanced healthcare provider.