Clinical placements are an essential element of students’ graduate nursing education, providing them with an opportunity to apply the concepts, care methods, and care coordination principles they learn in the classroom to direct work with patients. Clinical practicums are MSN students’ chance to assume the role of an autonomous provider, while still benefiting from the supervision and guidance of a preceptor. These intensive internships also present valuable networking opportunities for MSN students post-graduation; in some cases, a student’s clinical site may be their first place of employment after they complete their MSN program.
Practicums give students a realistic idea of the work nurse practitioners must complete, and therefore MSN students should expect to take on a great deal of responsibility, think critically and autonomously, and learn quickly in a fast paced environment. Additionally, some graduate nursing programs require students to find their own clinical placement sites and preceptors, which can prove time-consuming and stressful.
To inform students of the challenges they can expect when searching for clinical placement sites and preceptors, and to help them make the most of their clinical practicums, OnlineFNPPrograms.com created this Guide to Clinical Placements. This Guide outlines:
- How students can optimize their search for clinical placement sites and preceptors that match their academic interests and professional goals.
- How students can make the most of their practicums, and what concepts and skills they should expect to gain from their placements.
MSN programs handle the clinical placement matching process differently. While some programs handle the entire process for their students, others require students to manage the process of finding and securing a clinical site and preceptor throughout their enrollment. Below, we have provided advice for students based on how their program handles this process.
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Clinical Placements: Core Considerations for MSN Students
Regardless of whether their program finds their clinical placements or requires them to secure preceptors and clinical sites for themselves, students should take the initiative to communicate with the clinical placement staff at their program, write out their learning objectives and work towards these goals, and put their best foot forward during their practicums. Below are several core considerations that students should keep in mind when researching, securing, and completing their clinical placements:
- Determine the specific clinical placement requirements for one’s program. Determine and confirm these requirements with the Clinical Placement Coordinator of one’s program. If an application is required to enroll in the clinical practicum course for a given term, complete and submit this application under the guidance of the Clinical Placement Coordinator.
- Seek the support of the Clinical Placement Coordinator of one’s program. If a program requires students to find their own sites and preceptors, the Clinical Placement Coordinator and clinical placement staff can help students with the search for medical facilities and preceptors that meet their academic and professional interests. If students are enrolled in a program that finds their sites and preceptors for them, they should nevertheless discuss their learning goals with the placement team to increase their chances of being assigned a practicum site and supervisor that align with their academic and professional goals.
- Ask questions, take initiative, and be open to new challenges. During their practicum, students should take the initiative to research and learn as much as possible from day one, with the goal of becoming comfortable in the provider role at the end of the placement. They should also use their preceptor as a resource, asking relevant questions that can improve their interactions with patients and their treatment of medical conditions. Furthermore, it is important for nursing students to be open to new challenges during their practicums, and to also be open to completing practicums in medical environments that are outside of their desired field of practice, as these opportunities can help them build skills, experiences, and connections that help their career path.
- Forge and maintain connections with colleagues. Being a health care provider requires students to not only work effectively in groups, but also direct teams of medical professionals. Graduate nursing students must learn how to communicate effectively in a leadership capacity, present patient cases well, and oversee the operations of their health care team. During their practicums, students should prepare for these future responsibilities by trying to connect with their supervisor and colleagues. The connections that students make during clinical practicums can prove useful when students are seeking jobs post-graduation.
Advice for Students Who Must Secure Their Own Clinical Placements
For students whose MSN programs require them to find their own clinical sites and preceptors, one of the most important things they can do is to start their search early, at least several months before the first semester of their clinical practicum. The preceptor approval process can take weeks and sometimes months to complete, and if students fail to get their preceptor and/or clinical site approved before the start of the term, they may run the risk of delaying their graduation.
“If I could give a student some advice, it would be start now. That’s it; start now,” said Dino Soriano, FNP-BC, who is the CEO and Founder of a company called Clinical Match Me, which supports nurse practitioner students in finding preceptors in their area that match their program’s requirements.
Step One: Research Clinical Placement Requirements for One’s Program
The first step that students should take when arranging their clinical placements is to thoroughly research their program’s requirements and make sure that the clinical placement sites and preceptors they reach out to for a particular semester’s practicum align with these requirements. “The first thing [MSN students] need to do is to find out what the requirements are from their school. Every school has a clinical placement package for a preceptor,” said Mr. Soriano, “The clinical package provides all the logistics and requirements of the clinical practicum aspect of the program.”
“Typically, students have to turn that paperwork in the semester before that class is actually due to start. So, if you’re starting in summer, you need to turn your paperwork in in January,” Mr. Soriano continued, “Or if you’re starting in fall, you need to turn your paperwork in in April or May. And then the school will let you know sometime prior to the week before class that your preceptor has been approved.”
As mentioned previously, determining and abiding by the requirements of one’s program when seeking out a preceptor is important because the approval process for a preceptor and clinical site can take several weeks, and if a student’s preceptor and site are not approved for a given semester, it can be very difficult for this student to find another suitable site in time to start when the semester begins.
In these situations, if students cannot find a replacement before the practicum class is due to start, they might need to sit out for that class that term, which can set them back from graduating. It is therefore in students’ best interest to search for a preceptor and make sure that the preceptor’s workplace and daily responsibilities align with the practicum class requirements.
“Most programs have fairly stringent requirements around what qualifies as a particular type of setting (ex. women’s health, primary care, acute care, etc.), though some schools allow for some flexibility–for instance, certain programs are allowing students to complete their primary care clinicals at urgent care centers,” Mr. Soriano noted.
Step 2: Find and Reach Out to Preceptors
Students whose programs require them to find their own preceptors and clinical sites should begin their search by reaching out to people within their existing professional networks.
“Networking is so important in developing potential preceptors,” said Dr. Pamela Simmons, Senior Director of the Northwestern State University College of Nursing, in an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, “Most students find their preceptor first–often someone they’ve worked with as a registered nurse. Of course, faculty help guide and direct students to known preceptors that have worked with them in the past. And peer to peer recommendations among the students also occurs.”
Dr. Simmons also encouraged students to develop relationships with faculty in their program, as these faculty may have useful connections with past preceptors as well as graduates who may be willing to take on students from their alma mater. “Faculty also follow up with students who have gone through the program once they have been practicing for a few years,” she noted, “These have been some of our best and most faithful preceptors. They understand the rigor of the program and the requirements and hold the students to them.”
For students who cannot find preceptors through professional connections or faculty contacts with previous preceptors, the process of finding a preceptor may require outreach efforts to local hospitals, community health centers, urgent care centers, private practices, and other medical settings. “Students will go about researching potential preceptors in a number of ways–they may go to Healthgrades, or grab a phonebook, or a provider list from their insurance company. They may contact hospitals or research on medical centers’ websites. Students will pick up the local provider directory, search Google, or go to the local association for nurse practitioners,” Mr. Soriano said of the strategies he has seen students use to find preceptors in their area.
Students who struggle to find a preceptor to supervise them for an entire term may wish to contact their school’s clinical placements office and see if their program allows them to work with multiple preceptors for a given rotation. Jodie Marcantoni, MSN, DNP, FNP-BC, ANP-BC is a Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult Nurse Practitioner at Washington University in St. Louis/Barnes Jewish Hospital. In an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, she explained how rotating between multiple preceptors in a term may enable students to find more willing preceptors, and may enhance their overall clinical experience due to the variety of environments they will work in. “In my experience, students are often looking for a semester long clinical opportunity, which typically requires 1-2 days per week of working with a preceptor, and can be daunting to those with a full time clinical role,” she explained, “My suggestion would be to offer several options in their request to a preceptor, perhaps a 3-4 week experience, or one day every other week for a semester. This may require more juggling on the part of the student, but may result in finding more willing preceptors, […and result] in teaching from multiple providers with a range of experience and teaching styles. This also results in a more varied clinical experience, which I strongly suggest.”
Joining advanced practice nursing associations may also provide students with a network of fellow nurses who could potentially serve as preceptors. For example, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is a national association for advanced practice registered nurses that provides certification examinations as well as networking opportunities through conferences and an online community of members. State and/or specialization-specific nursing associations, such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) or the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) can also provide helpful networking opportunities for graduate nursing students in search of preceptors.
Step 3: Obtain Approval for One’s Site and Supervisor
Once students have found a clinical site and preceptor, they must send this preceptor all requisite preceptor paperwork from their graduate nursing program, which the preceptor must complete and submit to the school for approval. The nursing program’s clinical placement staff checks the preceptor’s credentials and field of practice to ascertain whether he or she meets the requirements for the student’s practicum rotation.
In some cases, after reviewing the paperwork, a program’s clinical placement staff may ask a student to find a different clinical site and supervisor. For example, if a student in an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program needs to complete a rotation in an intensive care environment, but selects a preceptor who works in a primary care setting, he or she may need to find a preceptor whose daily responsibilities match the requirements of the program.
Additionally, depending on their concentration and program, students may be required to find a different preceptor for each clinical rotation they complete. Students whose programs do not provide preceptors and clinical practicum sites may need to repeat the process described above for each term that they have a clinical practicum rotation. For instance, students of family nurse practitioner graduate programs may need to complete clinical rotations in a pediatric setting, a women’s health care setting, and a setting that treats middle aged and/or elderly adults, and would therefore have to search for settings and supervisors that give them these experiences prior to each term they are expected to start a clinical rotation.
Advice for Students of MSN Programs That Arrange Clinical Placements
Students who are enrolled in programs that arrange their clinical placements for them do not need to seek out preceptors and clinical sites, as their program’s clinical placement office/specialists handle the assignment of supervisors and clinical locations for them. However, students are responsible for communicating regularly with the clinical placement staff in order to make their academic interests and needs known, and to ensure that they are provided with a clinical site and preceptor that align with their academic and professional goals.
Jen Wiles, MSN, FNP-BC is a Family Nurse Practitioner who works at Minute Clinic, and who has also worked in surgical, trauma, and emergency care settings. Ms. Wiles has precepted numerous students throughout her years as both a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner. In an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, she explained the importance of getting a wide range of experience during one’s clinical practicums. “While I do recommend students attempt to find clinical placements in their area of interest, I think a lot can be learned from taking a placement or two that is vastly different from where you want to work,” she said, “I would have never found the emergency room as a nursing student if I hadn’t given it a shot. I never imagined that I would be a new graduate nurse in the ER, but I fell in love with that clinical setting. I think the goal should be trying to see a diverse range of patients wherever you go initially.”
Advice for Students on Making the Most of Their Clinical Placements
Clinical practicums are intensely challenging and require students to take charge of their learning in a way that is distinct from academic classes. Practicums are opportunities for graduate nursing students to fulfill the tasks they would complete as nurse practitioners, with the support of an experienced professional. Below are several core considerations that students should take into account when starting and progressing through their clinical practicums.
Identify One’s Learning Objectives and Create a Plan to Reach Them
Graduate nursing students should be very deliberate about their clinical education, and set learning objectives with their preceptor at the outset of each rotation. These objectives may change slightly over the course of the term, but it is important for graduate nursing students to have a clear idea of the skills, experience, and insights they hope to obtain. Starting each clinical practicum with intention can help students to focus their efforts to get the most out of their time with their patients, colleagues, and supervisors. Furthermore, when students create a concrete plan for their own development as practitioners, it can help their preceptors better support them in reaching their goals.
In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Ms. Wiles explained her approach to helping her students develop realistic and productive learning objectives. “I feel that the easiest way to collaborate with the students on learning objectives is to simply ask them. I will generally wait until after a few days on the floor or in the clinic so they have a general idea of what I do and what patients I see,” she said, “I will then have them give me a few goals of where they feel weak or where they see a large potential to dive in deep given the work setting. Having them give me five or more objectives allows me to narrow them down to three that are reasonable given my work environment, the number of hours the student will have with me, and my areas of expertise.”
Students’ learning objectives will vary depending on the clinical setting of their given rotation, as well as where they are at in their nursing program. The more advanced students are in their program, the more responsibility they will be expected to take on. Emily Weston is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Wentworth Health Partners, where she also works as a preceptor for nursing students. In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, she explained the differences in learning objectives and tasks that students in their first year have versus those of students in their second year.
“The tasks that a student takes on depend on if they are in their first or second year of clinical. First year students are mostly observing and asking questions,” she said, “Second year students start to conduct interviews with patients and do clinical documentation. They will also see some patients for psychotherapy independently, documenting those visits. I am observing most of the visits a student will have with patients since they are unable to prescribe medications, so during those visits I can help in the clinical decision making process.”
While learning objectives vary depending on the medical setting, students’ year in school, and their personal academic and professional goals, general learning objectives for graduate nursing students could include such items as:
- Conducting an advanced health assessment of different patients, and/or specializing in particular types of patient assessments, such as obstetrical examinations or psychiatric mental health evaluations
- Being able to make accurate diagnoses of patient conditions
- Learning how to treat various patient ailments depending on the medical setting
- Presenting patient findings accurately and effectively to supervisors and peers
- Developing a comprehensive medical care plan for patients and adapting the plan as patients’ conditions progress
- Building an awareness of the medical, social, and political roles that APRNs play across numerous contexts, and where the APRN profession is advancing
Kristen Campbell, MSN, PNP-BC is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at New York Methodist Hospital and a Clinical Faculty Member at Columbia University School of Nursing, where she supervises students in the Emergency Room. In an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, she explained the variety of clinical experiences her students encounter in the ER. “While I try to tailor each student’s experience to their interests and needs, we can never predict exactly what will and will not walk in the door on any given day. But that’s the beauty of the ER–there will always be something new to learn!” she said.
Ms. Campbell also mentioned how she receives students who are at different places in their clinical education, which can impact what these students hope to learn and how she guides them throughout the term. “Some students are in their first semester of clinicals with no prior nursing experience while others have been working as an RN and are mere weeks away from graduating. At the start of each semester, I ask my students what they feel comfortable with, what they feel uncomfortable with, and what, ideally, they want to see more of and try during their time in the ED,” she explained.
Students should not necessarily limit their learning objectives to topics within the scope of their preceptor’s experience. In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Ms. Wiles explained how several of her students’ learning objectives were educational opportunities for her as a preceptor. “[If students] have a really great objective that doesn’t fit my professional experiences or areas of expertise, I strongly recommend them to nevertheless write up a brief summary of the topic and present it to me at some point during the rotation. This way we can both learn!”
Establish and Repeat Best Practices to Ensure Quality of Care
Clinical practicums are also a good time for graduate nursing students to develop good habits around patient health evaluations, developing plans of care, and coordinating care delivery as part of a larger healthcare team. In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Dr. Marcantoni explained how she encourages her students to combine their clinical knowledge and communication skills with organized approaches to patient health assessments and care. “I always emphasize to my students that I want them to walk away with the knowledge of appropriate collaboration and consultation, as well as knowing how to obtain evidence-based information for clinical diagnosis and management. I also encourage a systematic approach to each patient encounter, as this helps minimize the risk of overlooking information and potential errors. One example is to always start with the patient’s chart review and obtain as much history and clinical knowledge (i.e. medication review) as possible before the actual patient interaction,” she said, “Clinical care is always changing and it is impossible to know everything about everything. Therefore knowing where to find reliable and scientific information is key to delivering safe care to patients.”
Following up with patients and conducting health reassessments as necessary is an important best practice, noted Cortney Mazur, MSN, PACNP-BC, who is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, in her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com. “I expect my students to be on time or communicate with me if they will not be on time. I expect them to take initiative without being asked… reassessment of the patient is huge for me [and] I want my students to spend as much time at the bedside and with myself as possible. They should talk to families, reassess after interventions without being asked to do so, and modify the plan accordingly based on patient responses.” Though it may be challenging for students to manage all the new responsibilities of being an advanced practice provider, Ms. Mazur noted that with each fulfilled task comes increased comfort with advanced health care methods. “I expect a complete and thorough physical exam on every single patient… that includes ears, eyes, nose, and throat,” she said, “The more normal ears a student looks at, the more likely they are to be able to identify otitis media or other abnormality. It is certainly not easy to wrangle a 2-year old to look in their ears and throat, but it is necessary.”
Laura Dziama, MSN, WHNP-BC, is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Boston University who has served as a preceptor for over a decade at Boston College. In an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, she also emphasized the importance of developing personal best practices of care that one reinforces through repetition. “The biggest challenge I see with students is their ability to feel confident communicating a specific and detailed plan of care to patients,” she said, “I tell my students that repetition is good, you are never an expert the first time you are seeing a patient for a specific problem but the more you encounter that patient problem you become more confident asking the right questions, knowing what to look for clinically and then formulating the correct plan of care. Most importantly through repetition and experience you become effective at communicating the plan of care to patients in an empathetic and informative manner.”
The transition from working as a staff nurse to developing medical care plans and dictating the course of patients’ treatment as an advanced practice provider can be intimidating for many graduate nursing students. Adam Greenberg, MSN, CRNP is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he treats and counsels patients ages 18 and above. In an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, he explained his work as a preceptor and his observations of the challenges that graduate nursing students and new NPs face on the job. “From my perspective, one of the biggest transitions for graduate nursing students is moving into the role of clinical decision maker,” he said, “Graduate students are typically very good at obtaining complete H&Ps and physical examinations–it’s the assessment and plan that seems to cause the most apprehension. I’ve seen a lot of graduate nursing students and new-to-practice NPs hesitant to tell me what they think next steps for the patient should be. I think it’s a fear of not only being wrong but also potentially injuring a patient.” Mr. Greenberg recommended that students take the opportunity to practice the skills and responsibilities with which they are uncomfortable as often as possible during their practicums, so that they can gain confidence in these tasks while in a supportive environment. “[C]linical rotations should be safe environments for graduate nursing students to further develop their assessment and reasoning skills,” he said.
Ms. Mazur also discussed the foundational elements of advanced practice registered nursing, and explained that graduate nursing students completing their clinical placements should really focus on these elements from the very beginning of each clinical rotation. “I really want [my students’] clinical experience to be about soaking up anything that they can learn while they are here and repeating/reinforcing the process of gathering data/history, performing a complete and thorough physical assessment, forming an accurate impression with differential diagnoses, and formulating a cost-effective and sensible plan for the patient. These are the basics of any NP job and they need practice, practice, and more practice,” she said.
On top of practicing the requisite skills for their new role as an advanced practice provider, students should also seek additional information on best practices in their field by attending conferences, reading journals and other supplemental materials, and enrolling in workshops to hone their abilities. “I do recommend that if there are certain skills or topics NP students are interested in while in their clinical setting they should look into conferences or workshops that help strengthen their knowledge,” Ms. Diama noted, “One example in my line of work would be IUD insertion, as it is a very specific skill that Nurse Practitioners can perform independently and might make one person a stronger candidate over another when interviewing for positions. There are plenty of conferences such as Contraceptive Technology with intensive training on this particular skill. I’ve recommended them to many of my students in the past.”
Ask Questions and Actively Seek Answers
Clinical practicums are an opportunity for students to engage in real advanced practice nursing tasks, and subsequently develop questions that can help them improve their treatment of patients once they graduate. Andrew Penn, CNS, PMHNP-BC is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner III at The Permanente Medical Group California, and also serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. In discussing his experiences precepting students in an interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Mr. Penn explained how he encourages students to ask questions of him, particularly during the beginning of their rotation. “I expect my students to come to clinic prepared, curious, engaged, and interested in the work,” he said, “I always leave time for students to ask me about whatever is on their mind, be it differential diagnosis, how to use a particular medication, or what approach to take with a difficult patient.”
Like Ms. Wiles, Mr. Penn recommended that students start every day of their practicum with intention, and that they be communicative with their preceptors about their learning needs. “I usually start out each day with the question, ‘What do you want to learn or get out of today?’ and then I try to shape the learning experience to meet their needs,” he told OnlineFNPPrograms.com. He also recommended that students take a proactive approach after each day to evaluate their progress, take stock of what they did not understand, and seek answers independently of their preceptor. “I always pass on the advice that I was given as a student: at the end of each day, ask yourself what you didn’t understand that day, and then go look up the information. Don’t wait to learn. Do it now,” he said.
Mr. Soriano encouraged graduate nursing students to turn readily to their reference materials throughout their clinical practicums. “There is nothing wrong with looking up an antibiotic before you prescribe it. There’s nothing wrong with looking up a medicine to make sure that if you’re going to give a starting dose for a hypertensive medication, that this is the appropriate dose; that it doesn’t interact with another medication that the patient is taking. Looking that up is not being timid; it’s being safe and smart,” he advised.
Take Initiative and Ownership of the Clinical Process
As they advance through their clinical practicum, graduate nursing students should take on more responsibility, with the goal of operating as an independent health care provider by the end of their rotation. In his interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Mr. Penn described how he has his students shadow him first, take on responsibility gradually, and then begin to work directly with patients over the course of their stay in the medical facility. While preceptors do serve in a mentorship capacity, particularly at the beginning of a graduate nursing student’s rotation, students should also see their supervisors as colleagues. “I see precepting as a process of independent, adult education,” Mr. Penn continued, “It is a highly collegial relationship because that’s how actual practice will be, and I want them to be comfortable in that culture.”
Mr. Penn also told OnlineFNPPrograms.com that, while he wants his students to operate self-sufficiently in the clinical setting, he still supports them and provides guidance and evaluations of their work where necessary. “My students learn to do the same job that I do. For the first few weeks, I have them shadow me in my duties. After they have demonstrated a grasp on rudimentary clinical skills, I have them begin to see patients while I observe, and then I encourage them to start seeing patients on their own,” he said, “They get practice in charting and collaborating with other care providers. I encourage them to continue to see the same patients during the tenure of the patient in IOP so that they can see their progress over the 2-4 weeks that the patient is in the program.”
Build Communication Skills and Network with Colleagues
A core part of the advanced practice registered nurse role is communicating effectively with patients, colleagues, and supervisors. The transition from RN to APRN entails a change from being a executor of medical orders to the creator of them, and collaborating with a medical team to make diagnoses and medical care plans for patients. Being a health care provider and director in medical settings requires strong analytical and communication skills, along with the ability to assert one’s opinions as to what a patient needs.
Presenting clinical findings about a patient can be intimidating, noted Christine Guelcher, MS, PPCNP-BC, who works as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Program Coordinator at Children’s National Health Center. To address the learning curve that comes with reporting and making recommendations regarding patient treatment, Ms. Guelcher recommends that students take very detailed medical histories and thorough physical assessments, and to practice their presentation skills to improve over time. “[My students and I] work on organizing thoughts, creating differential diagnosis lists and determining next steps systematically so that the presentation becomes second nature over time,” she said.
The challenge of clinical presentations can also serve as an opportunity for nurse practitioners to not only improve their communication skills, but also support and make connections with their colleagues. “I can remember one particular student who was very anxious, but she focused on this skill [of presenting effectively] and developed a tool that she found helpful during her clinical experience, which was an intake form that she used when evaluating patients,” Ms. Guelcher recalled, “She would use this template to organize the information as she was presenting her patient and it helped her to be more confident with this necessary skill. At the end of her rotation we asked if she would share her tool and we now provide it as a resource to other NP students. It is so nice to see the growth of students during a clinical experience.”
Mr. Greenberg also emphasized the importance of strong communication skills in determining treatment plans, coordinating patient care, and building strong and productive relationships with one’s medical team. “I believe that all nurse practitioners are de-facto leaders, so [when precepting students] I try to enhance leadership and communication skills during their rotation, if possible,” Mr. Greenberg said. He also advised students learn how to handle difficult conversations and situations during their rotations, and explained how he works with his students to navigate tough scenarios through clear communication. “[I]f a difficult conversation needed to occur (i.e., patient and provider, provider to provider), we would discuss not only the information that needs to be communicated, but also how to communicate it, how to manage misunderstandings and potentially negative interactions, while maintaining the respect and dignity of all involved parties,” he said.
For some graduate nursing students, clinical practicums can lead to their first job post-graduation. Students should therefore try to integrate themselves into their work setting, and to be supportive of their peers and supervisors throughout their rotation. In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Dr. Simmons advised graduate nursing students to put their best foot forward in their practicums. “[R]emember, most nursing communities are very small (even in the bigger cities), so do your best. Perform as well as you can, at all times. Otherwise, your reputation may precede you and you may find it difficult to find a job once you graduate,” she warned, “A successful student experience can lead to a potential job or at least consideration for an interview. So don’t waste the opportunity.”
Some nursing program graduates find their practicum experiences to be so rewarding that they decide to pay it forward by serving as a preceptor for subsequent generations of students. In her interview with OnlineFNPPrograms.com, Jen Wiles noted how her time as a preceptor has been rewarding for the relationships she has forged and the knowledge she has gained from her time with students. “I truly believe that everyone should consider being a preceptor,” she said, “It enables you to keep your skills sharp as the ability to teach someone something is the greatest indicator of proficiency. There is also so much that you will learn from your students that will improve your own practice.” By being proactive, attentive, communicative, and open to new learning experiences throughout their practicum rotations, graduate nursing students can build the requisite skills to succeed as nurse practitioners in their field of choice, and also build rewarding personal and professional relationships.