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.

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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You can do it! Good luck.

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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.

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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