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New Grad PCICU Nurse Starting a DNP Program

by mads197 mads197 (New) New Student

Hi there, I recently was accepted into a BSN-DNP program to get an FNP starting Fall 2020. I will be graduating nursing school this May and have a job secured in a Pediatric Cardiac ICU. I'm worried that starting such a rigorous job, on top of being a new grad nurse, while also starting a DNP program is going to be too much. I understand it will be a rigorous program but have heard that in general the first year (since it's all online classes) is doable to work full time. Do you think it would be too much to start both at the same time? I feel like it would definitely be fine if I was working more of a low-key job, but since the PCICU has a huge learning curve it's more questionable. I learned that I can't defer my acceptance either. Open to all advice on this! I have to give my decision to admissions by Wednesday, April 15.

Way too much on your plate. One or the other is going to suffer.

speedynurse, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in ER, Pre-Op, PACU.

I couldn’t imagine doing both. The pediatric cardiac ICU seems like such a high intensity field and doing a NP program would be really challenging without the background nursing experience. Try to get a few years in and learn all you can - then make the move to the NP program. Congratulations on the job - that is amazing to be able to get that learning experience!

adventure_rn, BSN

Specializes in NICU, PICU.

I agree that it's too much.

This may not be true of your unit, but when I started in peds cardiac ICU (even coming in with several years of NICU experience) I had to complete about 50+ hours of classroom time in addition to my 3 weekly 12-hour shifts. At least every other week I had to come in for mandatory education, and during the off-weeks I usually came in for optional education. I racked up over 100 hours of continuing ed in a single year because I had so much to learn.

Again, I found the learning curve very steep and I came in with several years of related, high-acuity experience. Even on an 'easy' floor, your first year of nursing is notoriously difficult, let alone in arguably the most complex specialty there is. Adult cardiac with 'normal' anatomy is tricky enough to get a good grasp on, and peds is exponentially harder since you take all of the 'normal' cardiac pathophysiology and add in an infinite number of defects.

In addition, something you may not have considered is that peds cardiac can be incredibly emotionally and psychologically exhausting. Depending on the acuity of your unit, the kids may be very sick. I cared for a lot of kids who lived on my unit for months; in some cases I became very attached, and then watched those same kids die long, drawn-out, painful deaths. Every day on my drive to work, I wondered if one of my patients would code. I specifically didn't get a second NICU PRN job when I started in cardiac because I knew I would need some "me time" in between my shifts. You might find it harder to practice self care if you are torn between work and school.

Finally, and I don't mean to cast doubt on your grad school plans, but you may discover that your interests change once you're at the bedside. If you get into peds cardiac and find that you love it, an FNP really won't allow you to work with that population (even in an outpatient capacity). If you start working and realize that you want to work in a peds specialty beyond primary care, you'll need to get a PNP instead of an FNP. It's possible that working in peds cardiac will reaffirm your interest in FNP, but it's also possible that you'll realize you're interested in something else.

Edited by adventure_rn


Has 1 years experience.

Hey! I know this is a very late response, but I started a PICU job as a new grad the same time I was in my second semester of a DNP FNP program. I'm now 8 months into my role in the PICU and have one year left of the DNP program. It's been very challenging, but I'm making it work and I also TA for classes in my program and still have time to exercise and relax once in a while. I think it's definitely doable -there will be so many people that tell you it's not and so many that will say it makes more sense to work a few years first then do NP school but you know yourself best. I knew that I can't be at the bedside longterm; I love it, it's rewarding, but it's so physically and emotionally exhausting. When I'm doing my NP clinicals, I realize how much more realistic it is for me to work as an NP longterm. This was just something I knew about myself. My goal is to leave the PICU after about 1.5 years and begin an NP role. I hope you continued in both! The PCICU is very very challenging, but I hope your time there has been a great learning experience. Best of luck!