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Finish Your Nurse Practitioner Program Strong: Expert Advice for APRN and DNP Students

Posted on May 9, 2017   |   by   |   Job Seekers, New Grads

This is a guest post by Beth Nachtsheim Bolick, DNP ARNP PPCNP-BC CPNP-AC FAAN. Dr. Bolick is Professor and Director of the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago, IL.

The last several months before graduation can be incredibly stressful for BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP nursing students. I know it can be difficult for them, but I encourage my students to focus, work hard, and carefully consider the important decisions they need to make during this time. The effort they put in during the nurse practitioner program will pay dividends once they are employed as an APRN or earn their DNP.

If you’re in your last term your program, here are the things I recommend that you do.

Complete Your MSN or DNP Project

It can seem overwhelming, but every assignment and every clinical experience will help you become a competent professional in your field of study. By completing these activities you’re building your skill set, not just checking off a box.

All across the country, nursing schools require that students complete capstone or doctoral projects. Many come to fruition, and some even get published. But, unfortunately, there are also projects that are not successfully completed because the student fails to give it the effort it deserves.

Neglecting a project can jeopardize the student’s scholarship and professional career. But, it also impacts the sponsoring hospital and future nursing students. Hospitals devote time and resources to a project. When it doesn’t get done, the hospital may decide not to support projects for future students. So, it becomes a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. Make sure it is win-win.

Focus on Your Brand During Your NP Program

It’s also critical to focus on your “brand,” or what others might call your professional reputation. For example, I once had a student who was perceived to have some unprofessional behaviors when she was in her staff nurse role. The reality is that your APRN brand starts the first day of your clinicals, not the day you graduate. So stand tall, look like a professional, and act like a professional.

Every day is an interview, even when you’re not in your APRN student role. Colleagues pay attention to what you say and do as a staff nurse, and it can impact your job prospects after graduation. Pediatric nursing is a small world. Even if you plan to relocate, hiring managers in New York, or Chicago, or Florida probably know someone who knows you. They’ll ask, “Do you know this person? We’re interviewing her for a job. Is she a good candidate?”

Always remember that you are a professional with the knowledge, skills, and attitude to care for a select group of clients. Everyone is watching, so put your best foot forward every day.

Consider Your Skills and Preferences Before You Accept a Job Offer

As my students get ready to interview for new positions, I have them make a list of their knowledge, skills, and attributes. You need to know what you’re good at. Are you your best on teams, or do you prefer to work solo? Are you adaptable? How do you deal with change? Some people would love a role that is continually changing, but other people would be really stressed by it.

I’ve had students chase after a job because it’s in a city where they want to live, or it’s in their preferred specialty area. But I really believe it’s more important to be in a position that will help you thrive right after you graduate. You’re still learning during that first year, so you want a supportive environment that will help you go home feeling happy and confident at the end of the day.

My advice is to look at the jobs that are available and then look at your own skill set. Do they align? I’ve known many graduates who’ve created successful careers in a couple of different areas. It’s best to consider what you like to do, and then choose from the jobs that are a good fit.

Hospitals and clinics don’t want to lose APRNs because they feel overwhelmed or doubt their decision. The right job match for you will be a win for the organization as well.

Finally, Enjoy Your Commencement

I know this is an incredibly busy time in your life as you focus on the future. But I also encourage you to enjoy commencement. Spend time with your classmates and families. Lifelong friendships emerge from nursing school, and I’ve seen students form tighter bonds with NP colleagues than they have with undergraduate college friends. So, take time to enjoy it!

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About Beth Nachtsheim Bolick, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP-AC, FAAN

Dr. Bolick directs the Rush Acute Care PNP program which is nationally recognized for excellence. She is also Professor in the Rush University College of Nursing, Department of Women, Children and Family Nursing.
Through her work, Dr. Bolick has transformed the care of ill and injured children by (1) establishing new standards in pediatric emergency care, (2) conceptualizing new pediatric nurse practitioner roles and education models, and (3) advocating for policy changes to improve the quality of nursing care for these children at the state and national levels.

She is the co- editor of the text Pediatric Acute Care: A Guide for Interprofessional Practice. Her passion for working with effective teams led to her work with a national RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow project team to provide tools for healthcare leaders to identify, intervene, and prevent workplace incivility and bullying.

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