For anyone who would like to become a family nurse practitioner, it is clear that education and preparation are a vital part of their journey. Arguably, there is no more important aspect of their training than the clinical placement, where they are provided with the opportunity to put into practice all that they have learned throughout their degree.
This article discusses what kind of placements nurse practitioners typically enjoy during their master’s degree, as well as how locations are selected. In addition, we will look at how clinical placements relate to the context of the degree itself and the benefits that they can bring to students.
Deciding where to go
Any prospective nurse practitioner (NP) who has already qualified as a registered nurse (RN) will likely have experienced both earlier clinical placements and work as a nurse. Yet a clinical placement specifically as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) remains a crucial part of their development and can also provide key insights into the differences between working as an NP or RN. Most people who want to work as an FNP will complete a Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP), and direct patient care through a clinical placement is a basic requirement for anyone completing this kind of qualification.
So, how do students choose where they are going to go? To a certain extent, the procedure for making this decision depends on the school. In some cases, tutors may recommend or assign placements to their students. In others, the students themselves will be asked to make the arrangements, though they will naturally receive support to do this. Students may even seek out the assistance of a placement service. In any event, the student will generally make the decision on where to go in cooperation with their teachers and based on their specific interests and fields of expertise.
Range of options available
There are several potential destination types for a student studying to become a family nurse practitioner. While other prospective nurse practitioners might want to gain experience in a hospital or another emergency care environment, FNPs are generally more likely to want to experience working in a setting that caters to specific family care. Typically, these will include family practices, internal medicine or pediatric clinics, or community health clinics, though in some cases they may also work on urgent care sites too.
Naturally, the type of placement is an important decision for every student. There is nothing to say that the student will continue to work in the same area upon graduation, of course, and there is no obligation to continue in the same field. At the same time, the clinical placement does provide students with crucial experience in a real-life setting and is likely to give them some indication of where they might want to work in the future, particularly if their experience is a positive one.
An invaluable experience
Generally speaking, students will be allowed to participate in or provide diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic issues during their placement. They may also work to encourage healthy lifestyles and implement preventative care and will be expected to operate in close collaboration with other health professionals to achieve positive health outcomes. In order to gain the kind of fully rounded experience that is crucial to their chosen field, an FNP student will also typically have the chance to treat patients of all ages.
There are several benefits to this kind of clinical placement. In addition to the obvious advantage of gaining real-work experience in diagnosing and treating patients, students may also be provided with further experience in other aspects of working as an NP, and learn about the additional responsibilities for this profession. For example, they may have the chance to learn more about the use of data in improving treatment, investigate the administrative side of running a clinic, or participate in meetings related to broader, more business-oriented procedures or decisions. Of course, these kinds of placements also give students the chance to put theories and techniques learned on their course into practice.
Indeed, clinical placements also play a major role in the learning process for anyone completing an MSN-FNP degree. The placement should reinforce what has been learned and enable students to witness practical examples of the areas covered in their degree. Arguably, a clinical placement is even more crucial for people who are completing an online MSN FNP, as it provides them with important interaction with their peers and mentors.
With an online MSN FNP degree at Carson-Newman University, for example, students study advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology, as well as the key concepts of advanced health assessment and primary nursing care. In each case, tutors should ensure that every aspect of the curriculum can be practiced and explored during the clinical placements. This should then ensure a comprehensive practical and theoretical understanding of these crucial aspects of healthcare.
A crucial step
Overall, we can say that the clinical placement is a vital milestone in the path to becoming a fully qualified, confident and experienced nurse practitioner. In addition, it is an excellent opportunity for the student NP to create new working relationships and to establish connections with both their peers and supervisors. Usually, NPs will look back on their placement as a time where they fully began to understand the importance of their new role.
It should be remembered that to really get the most out of the placement, student NPs must be open to new challenges and ready to ask plenty of questions, even if they already have many years of experience as a registered nurse. And while there is no question that clinical field placements can be challenging, it is also clear that they are key to the ultimate goal of becoming a fully qualified and successful family nurse practitioner.