How to find a Preceptor for Nurse Practitioner Clinical

Hi, friends! Been awhile, so sorry! The last few months have been crazy on my end with my Pediatric clinical rotation, completing my husband’s step-parent adoption of our son (a post to come on that!), birthdays, holidays, weddings, being sick, and just regular life craziness. That’s all great, but lets get into the topic at hand here which is why I’m guessing you came – how to get preceptors for your nurse practitioner program’s clinical rotations.

If you’re like me, you are in a program that does not arrange your clinical rotations for you. You are going to be responsible for finding a preceptor and clinical site and nailing it down. This probably seems like an impossible task, and if you’ve been around other NP students, you have probably heard how hard it can be. But don’t despair! Follow these tips below to make your life a little easier during this process.


Step One: Figure out what requirements your program has and what your needs will be.

The first thing you should do when you find out you will have to arrange your own clinical rotations is GET STARTED! The following is some of the information you’ll need:

  • What rotations you’ll need
    • Example: FNP may need separate family, internal medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health rotations. This is completely dependent on your state, program type, school, etc.
  • How many hours you’ll need and over what time period
    • Example: 160 hours over a 10 week session
  • What credentials your preceptor has to have
  • What requirements your clinical site must meet
  • How many hours or rotations can be with one preceptor
    • Example: My program required a new preceptor for every rotation and I could not use the same office twice
  • What patient population must be seen in the clinical setting during each rotation
    • Example: Pediatrics, Adult only, Geriatrics, OB or OB/GYN combination

Knowing the above information and any other requirements you program has will enable you to find a preceptor and clinical site more confidently and have less of a chance that the site and/or preceptor will not be accepted by your program.

Step Two: Assess the options available in your area.

Once you know what requirements must be met, you can begin to assess what possible clinical sites would meet those requirements in your area. This is also a good time for you to decide how far you’re willing to travel for a clinical site and preceptor. I have driven up to 60 miles one way from my house for clinical. Although it was difficult for me with managing childcare and travel, it was doable. This may not be the case for you. I have also spoken with students who have traveled to another state entirely to complete their hours. Knowing what is available to you in your area will help you identify how far you’re going to need to go.

  • Where to Look
    • Within local area hospital systems
      • In my case, I did the majority of my clinical hours in a large hospital system’s outpatient offices and the first step was to contact HR. Most HRs will have someone dedicated to managing students and medical education and they have to clear you and give you the next step.
    • Private practice clinics
    • School lists of established or contracted clinical sites and preceptors
    • Networking websites/groups on Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • Word of mouth from other students
    • State Board Resources



Step Three: Make contact.

I cannot stress this enough – DO. NOT. PROCRASTINATE. You WILL regret it if you do! I am a lifelong habitual procrastinator. It is definitely one of my faults although I have never really had any major problems as a result. In this case, I did not know how difficult it could be to find a preceptor, especially for specialties, and my graduation was delayed by 9 months because of it. I waited 9 months for my Women’s Health preceptor’s availability and 1 year for my Pediatric preceptor to be available. I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble had I known that I needed to start early.

Remember that many of these Physicians and Nurse Practitioners and their office staff are getting tons of calls every day from people looking for clinical. Be straight and to the point about what you need, present yourself professionally, and showcase why you would be a good fit for clinical in their practice setting. Don’t hesitate to leave a message and follow-up, but don’t be a bother either.


Things to Avoid and Final Tips

  • DON’T GET SCAMMED. Many websites out there advertise a guarantee that you’ll find a preceptor if you pay for membership. I paid $100 for membership to one of those websites early on in my search and was sorely disappointed. I have also heard of people that were told they needed to pay providers to precept them. It’s up to you if you want to do that, but I still feel there are plenty of people out there willing to give back by precepting you without asking for money.
  • Try to get a good variety in your precepting experiences (example: MD/DO/ARNP). Seeing how clinicians from different backgrounds in training practice provides a well-rounded experience and invaluable training in my opinion.  I was lucky to have experiences with a wide variety of patients also which I felt like enriched my clinical learning.
  • Be respectful and non-invasive. My preceptors have had some horror stories about students that were being disrespectful or invasive in their attempts to make contact. I have found it best to simply call the office or come to reception and request contact with the office manager as a start. Sending an email is also acceptable, but don’t be bothersome and annoying. If you don’t hear back after a couple of attempts, move on. Unless you know the preceptor or have been given permission to contact them by cellphone, I would never contact them by personal phone.
  • Work your contacts. Workplace networking is a good way to make contacts that may be helpful when you are searching for a preceptor or clinical site. I was able to use this route and my contacts from my job as an ER nurse to obtain my women’s health clinical site and preceptor.
  • Don’t give up! I live in a heavily saturated area of medical professionals and must’ve made over 100 phone calls for women’s health alone. Although there were many times I was ready to quit, perseverance allowed for it to all work out.
  • Know that it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it! There will be times when you may want to give up. I don’t blame you. But keep going anyways! Someone out there will take you on.


You can do it! Good luck.


How to Be Successful with Your Preceptor

Starting something new is not always easy. This is especially true when you embark on a new nursing adventure whether it be with a new specialty or new setting or an educational endeavor. Often times, this includes mentorship from a preceptor who is basically there to make sure you don’t kill someone. With healthcare internship programs becoming more and more popular, it is important that you know how to make these relationships work. The key is to find a way to get along with that person and get as much as you can out of the experience in terms of learning. Super easy right? Not always! With most preceptors being someone you have never met and also often randomly assigned to you, there is no guarantee that you’re going to automatically jive. So how do you find a way to forge a successful relationship?

Ensure all expectations and needs are communicated up front.

The first step in any mentoring or preceptorship should be to first figure out what both of you need from the relationship. The preceptor and preceptee should be fully aware of each other’s backgrounds and knowledge base. Make sure your preceptor knows what you are coming into the preceptorship already understanding or what you already have knowledge of. There should be an up front discussion in the beginning about what you both are hoping to get from the experiences you’ll have together. The preceptor should also be sure you know what they expect of you. This can be anything from how you’ll go into a room and assess patients together to how many patients you’ll be taking on your own and when. Going into the mentorship without knowing these expectations on either side is setting yourselves up for failure.

Figure out how you’ll communicate and what your style of communication is.

This is incredibly important for any professional relationship! Don’t wait until you’re in a bind and trying to contact your preceptor emergently on Facebook, not sure when they’ll see it. Establish up front how they expect you to communicate with them whether it be via cell phone, email, etc., and get that information! You’ll thank yourself later and it’ll save you a lot of problems.

Don’t hesitate to address a problem when it comes up and encourage them to do the same.

In any learning environment, nobody is going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Expect there to be some wrinkles that need to be ironed out and times when something happens and needs to be discussed. That’s just learning and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! However, these times need to be handled in a healthy way that is conducive not only to your professional relationship, but your overall learning and growth. When something happens that you don’t understand or that makes you uneasy or upset, DO NOT hold it in and ignore it happened! Discuss it openly with your preceptor or mentor in a way that best suits both of your styles of communication. Having an open communication and clearing the air helps to keep things moving and will only assist in giving you a smooth experience that works well for everyone.

DO NOT go into it with arrogance and/or expecting to take nothing away from the experience.

This is a big one. One of the biggest peeves for any experienced nurse is getting some A-hole who has some experience somewhere else, who thinks they know everything and makes that clear to everyone around them. We have all met a person like that (and probably come off that way unintentionally!). It’s common for people to want to overcompensate and impress whoever is mentoring or precepting them. However, try the best you can not to do this. Have confidence that you got into whatever position you are training for because you have earned it and let that be enough. People will be much happier helping with your learning experiences if you go into it openly and not throwing in their face whatever experiences or knowledge you have. Not to mention, you’re training for a reason, and anyone in nursing should be able to tell you that you learn something new every day. No matter how experienced you think you are, try and keep a level head and the ego at bay.

Check in with your preceptor and education team regularly.

This one helps if you have a long mentorship program like the one I went through. I went through a 12 week transition program for experienced nurses wishing to go to the ED from an inpatient unit. We also had 4 weeks of education included before starting the clinical training. That long period meant lots of checking in with the education team and figuring out what how things are going. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that you’re working hard on your weaknesses or areas needing improvement. You should also be told what your strengths are and what you’re doing well! Let the education team and/or your preceptor know what you need more help with. You should also tell them if you feel you need more time when your time is coming to a close. Safety is key, even if it means we aren’t all ready to be on our own in the cookie cutter amount of time allotted.

Realize when it’s just not working out and let someone know!

Unfortunately, we may have all had some professional relationships that just aren’t going to blossom and flourish. The same may happen at some point with a preceptor. Honesty is always the best policy. Nobody is going to benefit from a nasty, sour relationship filled with tension or animosity. We all know that nursing is full of women and sometimes, women don’t get along with each other. (Shocker, right?!) So if you’ve both done your best and it’s just NOT working out, let someone know. Don’t wait until time is up and it’s too late, and you’re on your own without knowing everything you should’ve learned in your training time. Some people just don’t jive, and that’s totally okay.

What suggestions do you have for a successful preceptor/preceptee relationship?

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

When Things Don’t Go Right


I’ve always been someone who needs to have a plan for my life. I enjoy being spontaneous day-to-day, but in the big picture, I always have a plan for how I want things to go. Having goals set in place has always given me something to work toward. A way to propel myself forward in really shitty times, and I’ve had several of them in my life that I, at times, thought I would not be able to overcome. Somehow I got through them and things always worked out one way or another. Recently, life has felt kind of topsy turvy for me and it’s had me thinking about when things don’t go right.

There have been times where nothing has gone the way I wanted or planned for it to go. Every step in the road to wherever I wanted to go had some bump or hurdle for me to overcome, and it was exhausting. There were days when I would wake up and not want to move from my bed, fully ready to give up and reformulate my plan for something else – something easier. Thankfully, the people in my life have never accepted those days or times as my defining moments, and they never allowed me to give up.

Recently, there have been more obstacles and I’ve had to make adjustments to my life and the road that will lead me to where I want to be. It felt like the last straw that I could handle on this super long journey I’ve been on. I was so ready to give up on my dreams and just stop where I’m at. I’ve learned some things though in this short 26 year span of life though that helped me this go around.

For one thing, a person is not defined by the obstacles they face, but by the way they face them. I have always loved the quote about fearing the person who looks into fire and smiles (okay maybe not someone who is looking at a house fire like a total nut case smiling, that ain’t cool) because I kind of identify with that. Anyone who has trudged through miles of metaphorical shit in their life probably feels that way. I don’t think a successful life is for the faint of heart. Success is what comes with time, hard work, energy, patience, and sometimes blood/sweat/tears. If everyone gave up every time their plans or ideas went awry, nothing would ever get accomplished. I’m also a firm believer that there is something positive or a lesson of some sort in every situation. We may not always see it in the moments where we are really in pain what those takeaways might be, but they always have a way of showing themselves in the end (and if they haven’t, maybe it’s not the end!). Finally, this quote:

“It won’t always be like this.”

-My poor momma who has had to tell me this at least 9,000 times

So in these moments where I feel fatigued, beaten, or just plain over it, what will I do? What should any of us do? We should persist. We should hold on to our dream, goal, plan, or idea and keep on fighting until we get where we want to go – no matter what. Until then, be strong.

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse

How to Choose the Right Nurse Practitioner Program


Congratulations! You’ve decided to think about going to graduate school to become a Nurse Practitioner! Welcome to the party. When you set out to apply for graduate school and choose the right Nurse Practitioner (NP) program, it may not be long before you realize there are a freaking ton of options out there. There is a lot to consider and it is a decision that you shouldn’t rush. There are several highlights you should be sure to think about before applying.


Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

  1. DNP or MSN?

There are so many programs out there. Some will do an RN (ASN) to Masters (MSN) track that can help you go through all the steps in between your first, most basic, nursing degree to a Masters. Other programs are from BSN to MSN, where you obtain your bachelor’s degree first wherever you’d like and then begin graduate school. Finally, some programs are a BSN to DNP track, which take you from the completion of your bachelor’s degree to a doctorate. The doctoral degree is going to take longer, while the BSN to MSN will be shorter. Also, what will your future job/career require in terms of degree? Will you need to be a DNP or will an MSN be sufficient?

  1. Acute Care or Family Medicine? Specialty?

It is really important for you to consider what you want to do when you finish school and are a practicing NP. A lot of people make the mistake of choosing the wrong type of program for what they want to do after school and they end up finding out really late in the game that they made the wrong choice. DON’T BE THIS PERSON!! Acute Care NPs are hospital focused and generally work in Emergency Department or Intensive Care Unit. You often have to have experience in a critical care area for these programs. Family Medicine, or Primary Care, focused NPs can work in a variety of settings. These are most often the outpatient setting, although I have seen and worked with many FNPs in the Emergency Department. FNPs have education on everyone throughout the lifespan, while Acute Care focuses on certain aspects of the population, like adults or geriatrics. If you want to be a specialized NP, such as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, you need to have the correct educational preparation.

  1. Lifestyle Factors

This one is a HUGE part of the decision-making process for what program you’ll apply to. Do you want to go to school full-time or part-time? Do you learn better in a self-taught and self-paced online environment, or is the brick and mortar classroom better for your learning? Something else to be considered is your dedication and available time for studying. Do you want to spend a lot of time studying or do you need something more manageable? If you don’t plan to put a lot of energy forth into studying, you should probably not go to NP school. Ha, but really. If studying 24/7 and cutting your work schedule back doesn’t sound totally amazing, I probably wouldn’t embark on getting into a CRNA program, for example.

  1. Cost

This is kind of a no-brainer. Some programs are going to be hella expensive while others more affordable. You might be paying for a name or it could be they provide more to students than other schools. Do your research and ask around with your nursing friends who are in grad school. Chances are, they’ll know someone at many of the schools you might be curious about or be attending themselves.

  1. ***Does the program find or help you find clinical preceptors?***

I put stars by this one because holy cow, this is a HUGE thing to consider in my eyes. I never realized or knew how hard it was going to be to find a preceptor for my four clinical rotations until I was already in too deep. I’m not alone in this feeling, either. Take plenty of time to weigh whether or not you’re okay with finding your own preceptor. If not, find a program that does it for you. They aren’t super plentiful, but they do exist out there.

What other tips or advice do you have, or have you heard from others regarding finding the right program? Good luck everyone!

Much love,

Just Ask the Nurse