Clinical placement is a critical experience for anyone who is training for a position in the medical field. Nurse practitioners must complete extensive clinical rotations to graduate and qualify for the tests needed to earn a license to practice in their state.
Advantages of clinical placement
Here is a look at how clinical placements can benefit aspiring nurses.
There is nothing like hands-on experience to ensure you are the best nurse practitioner you can be. By completing clinicals, you will be better prepared to meet the challenges you will face when working in any setting.
Mentorship and tips from experienced professionals
Having a mentor who can help you overcome challenges is important. Good support when starting any new career can increase your chance of satisfaction and success. A mentor can pass on their own real-world experience so you can overcome challenges easier or avoid them altogether. Mentors can also help you learn to deal with the stress of your new job.
A placement may lead to a permanent position
In some cases, a clinical placement can result in a permanent job after graduation and licensing requirements are met. At the very least, a successful clinical placement should result in an excellent reference or referral to another facility or doctor that has an open position.
The challenges of clinical placement
While clinical placement is rewarding and enjoyable at times, there are some challenges that aspiring nurse practitioners must face.
Temporary loss of income
While completing your clinical rotation, you will be able to gain hands-on experience in the medical industry. This is the only part of your degree that you might not be able to complete while working another job. Typically, you will be required to work a minimum eight-hour shift. For example, the Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner degree program at Texas Woman’s University requires 630 clinical hours, which amounts to just under 80 full-time days.
Finding your own placement
It is possible to find your own placement, but need to plan well in advance as it can take time to get everything approved.
Finding a preceptor and clinical placement is more difficult when you try to do it on your own. Those who are attending programs that include clinical placement services have a major advantage in terms of getting their degree and clinicals completed in a timely manner. Finding your own placement is very time-consuming and may even cost you money if you hire a traditional placement service to help you out.
Texas Woman’s University offers nurse practitioner clinical placement services as part of its Family Nurse Practitioner Master’s degree program. This degree can be completed in as little as two years, and you will learn evidence-based nursing skills and study current health policies.
What is a preceptor?
A preceptor is a supervising physician or mentor in a medical setting who agrees to have a student work under them. Preceptors are usually not paid for this service; those who do get paid tend to receive only a modest amount of money. Those who agree to be preceptors typically have a love of learning and like mentoring students so they can make a difference in the world of medicine.
After a preceptor agrees to take you on, there are documents that must be signed and processed.
Drug test and background check
Healthcare workers have a lot of responsibilities. To be accepted at any clinic, you will need to pass a drug test and a complete background check. Regardless of the legal status of some substances, nurse practitioners are expected to have a clean drug test and criminal record. Clinics must know that you are alert and do not have any concerning criminal convictions.
Typically, a clinical rotation does not start until at least 30 days after all documents are signed and processed and the student passes their drug and background checks.
Clinical rotations are pass/fail
While most nursing courses are graded, clinical rotations are pass/fail. It is important to try to perform as well as possible throughout your rotations. Failing your rotations is serious and means you cannot take your licensure exams. If you go the extra mile during your clinicals, you may gain some valuable recommendations and employment opportunities.
Clinical placement in a hospital setting will offer experience in a high-volume and sometimes very fast-paced setting. Hospitals can vary a lot in size, but they all have a variety of departments that you may be assigned to based on the areas of medicine that interest you the most. Hospitals are a great place to do your clinical rotations if you are looking for a very specific specialized position. Neonatal care is a great example of a specialization where you would likely be better off doing your clinicals in a hospital.
Doctor’s office placements
Working at a doctor’s office is a bit slower-paced than working in a hospital. You will most likely be working a standard day shift, such as 8am to 5pm, instead of the shifts around the clock that may be assigned to those working at a hospital.
A doctor’s office clinical placement is ideal for those who intend to work in a primary care provider setting when they graduate. At a doctor’s office, you will learn your role as a supporting staff member to the physician you will be working under. Doctor’s office clinical placements may be located in many different communities. If you have a particular interest in helping a specific demographic have access to better healthcare, you might want to request a placement in an area that has a high population of disadvantaged residents.
Many nurse practitioners find employment in urgent care or specialty clinics. Urgent care centers can be very busy places as they serve as emergency rooms in many ways. Because they are walk-in clinics, there is no way to know what the day is going to be like. There may be times or days where things are not busy, so your preceptor may find other tasks for you to do to gain experience. At other times, you may be so busy that the day flies by.
Clinics are another placement situation where you will work a more traditional work schedule than hospital-based nurses work. Some urgent care facilities are open slightly earlier and later than a traditional doctor’s office, so you may work as late as 7 or 8pm depending on your shift.
There are some clinics that specialize in a particular type of care, such as women’s health. These clinics tend to be smaller, and it may be more difficult to get a placement. However, they can be a great opportunity for those who want to specialize.
Long-term care facility placements
A long-term care facility services those who can no longer live independently. These individuals require help with practically every aspect of their daily lives. Nurse practitioners provide healthcare services to meet everyday healthcare needs and concerns and make arrangements for other doctors to see patients.
For example, a nurse practitioner may make an initial diagnosis but then make sure a physician takes a look at a patient to confirm the diagnosis. The NP and physician work together to make referrals and set up any further appointments. They also communicate care plans to other staff and departments and make arrangements to transport patients.
Assisted living placements
Those who live in an assisted living facility need some help with daily activities, such as errands and driving or house cleaning, but they still take care of a lot of their own needs. For example, they may be able to feed themselves and put on their clothes or shower without assistance. The needs that must be met will vary by person, but all of those in assisted living do have some level of independence. Plenty of people in assisted living communities still drive at times, for example.
Different types of placements
There are plenty of other places where a nurse practitioner may work. School and university medical clinics, health departments, and the correctional system are all common places of employment. As long as a willing and qualified preceptor is available and the degree program you are enrolled in approves it, there is no reason why you cannot complete your clinical rotation in one of these settings.
Becoming a nurse practitioner
For RNs who wish to advance their career and take on a new role, earning an advanced degree is a great step to take. Nurse practitioners are in high demand, and the degree is a natural career progression move that can be completed while still working as an RN, except when it comes time for your clinical placement.
You can help fill in the gaps in care that are most prevalent in the medical system
There is an extreme shortage of primary care providers right now for several reasons. First, there is a larger population of older and aging adults who have increased healthcare needs. People are enjoying longer lifespans, but that means that there are more people living with chronic ailments and conditions that require some level of medical care for decades.
More people than ever have adequate healthcare coverage that allows them to seek out medical care without it being a major financial burden. Healthcare providers and insurers alike are recommending preventative care visits for patients of all ages. This provides patients with the benefit of problems being diagnosed sooner so they can be treated faster and more effectively. Insurers benefit from not having to pay out benefits for extensive treatments for conditions that are easily and inexpensively treated when caught early on.
Family nurse practitioners can take care of many visits without the need for a physician to see a patient.
It takes far less time to train to be a nurse practitioner than a medical doctor
The major shortage of healthcare providers is set to increase. This means that it is imperative to train as many advanced-skill nurses and physicians as possible without compromising the skills and quality of care offered to patients.
A student can become a family nurse practitioner in half the amount of time it takes for a physician to be fully educated and trained.
Tips for making the most of your clinical placement
Here is some advice for getting the most out of your clinical placement.
Take the time to get to know your coworkers and colleagues
When you are working as a team, it is important to have a good connection and an open line of communication. Taking the time to get to know the names, duties and other details about the people you work with every day is important. It not only shows that you care but that you are a detail-oriented person.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Clinical placement is a time to learn. While asking a lot of questions to your preceptor during a patient visit is not recommended, you should ask questions when the time is right. Getting matters clarified sooner rather than later will help you be a better practitioner and get the most out of the time spent with your preceptor.
Take notes at the right time
If you want to know more about something, you might want to write down a quick note so you can learn more at the right time. There is a lot going on during your shift, and it can be easy to forget about something that you want to learn more about later.
Seize opportunities to learn and experience more
If there are times when your coworkers need extra help or if working slightly longer hours would be useful, you should occasionally offer your services before being asked. Trying to stay busy and helpful will benefit you not only when it comes time for your evaluation but also in the level of care you are able to offer your future patients.
Volunteering to do more can open up chances to learn more about a specialty or treatment that is of interest to you.
Make sure to take care of yourself
Medical workers are prone to taking care of others so much that they forget to take good care of themselves. While trying to help others is noble, it is important to realize that in order to do so effectively, you must take care of yourself as well.
Be sure to eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated and avoid too much alcohol. Stress among medical workers has been shown to increase the risk of alcohol dependence.
Exercising and taking time to do a hobby or activity you enjoy is critical for maintaining a good work-life balance. Developing these habits as early as possible in your career will prevent eventual burnout and job dissatisfaction no matter how much you love what you do in the beginning.
Work on your bedside manner
If you are already an experienced RN, you have likely developed some good bedside manners. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot improve or practice the type of communication skills that are going to be required as a nurse practitioner. As an NP, you will be asking more invasive questions and interacting even more with patients. Empathy and patience are very important, especially when dealing with very ill or difficult patients and their families.
Some preceptors will be good at offering feedback without you asking for it, but you should make sure to ask for regular feedback on your own as well. Remember that no one is perfect and you are there to learn. Constructive criticism offers a great opportunity to learn how to approach challenges in a way that will not only make your job easier in the future but will also help you provide the highest level of care to your patients.
Become more culturally aware
No matter where you work, there is a good chance it is becoming more diverse. Your clinicals are a great time to learn more about patients from many different backgrounds. This will help you address any challenges that can come with caring for patients with different religious beliefs or customs, for example.
It is important to take your clinical placement seriously when completing any nursing degree program. It is your time to not only show your skills but learn by gaining real-world experience performing medical care on people from many different backgrounds and demographics.
A good clinical placement experience can provide you with great recommendations and job opportunities upon graduation.