9 Tips For Surviving Nurse Practioner School

  1. With only one semester left in NP school, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the lessons that I learned as an NP student. The school is tough, but in the end it will be worth it. Hopefully these tips will make NP school a little less painful, easier to manage and something that one day you will look back, stand tall and be proud of your accomplishment.

    9 Tips For Surviving Nurse Practioner School

    1.) My go to apps

    UpToDate- I live in UpToDate. Any question I have, UpToDate is my go to resource for the most current information and guidelines. Everything can be found there, in one, easy to use place. Also, if you are researching a possible diagnosis, it also offers you a list of differential diagnoses that can help aid in your clinical decision process. The best part is, this is a resource that should be free through your university or workplace. Check first before you buy a subscription.

    Medscape- I use the Medscape app mostly when I am looking up medication: indications, dosages, compatibility and side effects. The app also offers current news in healthcare, a calculator for medical formulas and is a reference for medical conditions.

    GoodRx- GoodRx is a unique tool allowing you to search for medication costs at multiple local pharmacies. A good habit to get into is to see how much you will be costing your patients and the overall healthcare system. Also, you will be surprised how many first line medications are available to treat the same condition, but one could cost a lot more than the other.

    2.) Find a solid group of NP student colleagues

    Much like nursing school, in a nurse practitioner program, you will develop friendships that will last a lifetime. This will be the group that you study with, look forward to seeing in class, send out friendly reminders to, bounce ideas off of, work together in group projects, vent your frustrations, and have your back when you are in a pinch or when you need a place to sleep and take a quiz that is due at midnight because your power is out

    3.) Take A Vacation

    To be able to do this, first know the calendar of the University you are attending. Find the dates of when one semester is ending and another is beginning. This is the time when it is the safest to travel. Also, it will give you something to focus on and look forward to when the semester is becoming unbearable.

    4.) Don't get behind in logging your clinical hours

    As much as this is "busy" work, it really is important that you do not fall behind in logging your hours for two reasons. First, once you get behind, forget it. You will only continue to get further behind and you will be spending countless hours trying to log them all in one sitting. Second, take the time to turn logging your hours into a learning experience. Ues this time to fully understand billing and diagnosis codes, what they mean and when it is appropriate to use which one. Doing the leg work now will only help you down the road.

    5.) Make an appointment with the writing center

    A resource that is frequently underutilized is your University's writing center. I learned this lesson very early as an undergraduate student. In one or two appointments, my grade could go from a B to an A. Also, they are APA wizards, something that will help keep you from losing easy points.

    6.) Be on top of your schedule

    Your schedule is everything. This takes time, strategy, organization and double checking your work. Do not forget to place all quizzes and assignment due dates in your schedule as well. Classes are not designed with a ton of points to fall back on and if you forget to take a quiz or turn in an assignment, you can forget the entire semester. You will not pass the class if you forget to do one of the above and in graduate school, there are no redos. As a soon to be NP, it will be expected that you will be able to manage and handle your schedule with no excuses.

    7.) Eat right and exercise

    Nurse practitioner school is no excuse to let yourself go in the diet and exercise department. You body will need the fuel to make it through the program. Eating fast food/highly processed foods will only make you feel worse and slow you down. Also, taking the time to get in your exercise will help you clear your head and relieve some stress.

    8.) Find your clinical sites yesterday

    Not all NP programs find clinical sites for you. If your school requires you to find your sites, do this ASAP. This is something that you think you might be able to do last minute, but this process can be like a full time job. It would be terrible to get this far in the program and not be able to move forward because you do not have a clinical site.

    9.) Get involved with Nurse Practitioner professional organizations

    Meeting nursing colleagues that are currently practicing and who were once in your shoes is very comforting and exciting at the same time. You will meet people who you currently look up to and will be one day. Also, you will be able to gain knowledge from experienced practitioners about their current practice and what lessons they have learned that will prevent you from making the same mistakes.

    Only one semester left! Good luck to all of my soon to be Nurse Practitioner friends!

    Michael M. Heuninckx RN-BSN

    If you like this article then you might want to check out Michael's new book for nurses...

    Code Blue! Now What? Learn What To Do When Your Patients Need You The Most!
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 29, '18
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit Michael M. Heuninckx profile page

    About Michael M. Heuninckx, BSN, RN

    Joined: Oct '14; Posts: 44; Likes: 330
    Registered Nurse; from US
    Specialty: Emergency Department

    Read My Articles

    19 Comments

  3. by   Surg-OncRN
    Great article Michael, thanks for the tips and advice. I am looking forward to going to NP school after I complete my RN to BSN program.
    Will definitely be checking out the podcast.
  4. by   OBigdog26
    Good advice!


    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses. Pardon for any misspelled words, I blame it on auto-correct.
  5. by   SnowShoeRN
    I have medscape too. I didn't know about GoodRx though. Sounds great! I will check it out.


    Here are my favorite apps that got the most mileage when I was in my program:
    1. Epocrates - A fantastic med app. My program required that we all have smart phones specifically so we could use this app.
    2. AHRQ ePSS - an app from the USPSTF Preventive Services Database that - when you enter in a patient's age, sex, smoking status, and sexual status - will tell you what he/she should be screened for. I used this CONSTANTLY.
    3. Qx Calculate - walks you through certain certain screening tools from the Ottawa Ankle Rules to the mini mental status exam, etc. I especially loved it when working as a camp nurse.


    Another thought I have...if your program allows it and you feel like it might be a good fit for you, consider doing your clinical year part time over the course of 2 years. This isn't for everyone, but some family health problems put me in the position of going this route and - while money was tight and my friends graduated before me - it was one of the best choices I could have made. Not only did I get stellar clinical placements because I had more to time to not only look, but also make good connections, but I felt SO much more confidant about my knowledge base and my clinical skill set. It made a world of difference for me to get an extra year of clinical time in. Plus I exceeded the minimum amount of hours required so that's great too - both for my confidence and on paper.


    Best of luck to everyone out there!
  6. by   Katmckenna660
    Excellent article Mike!!! Yes, friends are key for survival. My internet and couch will always be there for you! ☺️
  7. by   FlyingScot
    And don't completely neglect your significant other. Yes they have to be flexible and allow time for school and other priorities but in the end they are your best support system. Sometimes just 15 minutes out of your day together is just what the both of you need to recharge and face your challenges.
  8. by   MallysMama
    Excellent advice!!! Thanks for sharing!

    One more tip: always present yourself professionally (especially in clinical). The NP "world" is quite small and word can travel fast! Treat your clinical time kind of like you would a job interview.
  9. by   OBigdog26
    What prep books do you recommend while in NP school to help pass boards?


    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses. Pardon for any misspelled words, I blame it on auto-correct.
  10. by   MallysMama
    Quote from OBigdog26
    What prep books do you recommend while in NP school to help pass boards?


    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses. Pardon for any misspelled words, I blame it on auto-correct.
    I'm still in my program...but I think the books really depend on what your specialty is. My program director highly encourages Barkley's review (for ACNP).
  11. by   littlepeopleRNICU
    I am part of a Facebook group, and they highly recommended Leik's review books. There's one that specifically says FNP, and another that says adult/gero on it.

    Has anyone here who is in/completed an ACNP program used the adult/gero one and found it helpful? I read on some other sites the reviews were so-so for it. I couldn't find much on AN either, except for in regards to the FNP book.
  12. by   MallysMama
    Quote from littlepeopleRNICU
    I am part of a Facebook group, and they highly recommended Leik's review books. There's one that specifically says FNP, and another that says adult/gero on it.

    Has anyone here who is in/completed an ACNP program used the adult/gero one and found it helpful? I read on some other sites the reviews were so-so for it. I couldn't find much on AN either, except for in regards to the FNP book.
    Is it an AG acute care or AG primary care book?
    I've heard that Barkley himself is a practicing ACNP. I feel more comfortable using a book written for a specific specialty by someone actually in that specialty.
  13. by   SnowShoeRN
    I have both Leik's FNP review book as well as Fitzgerald's FNP books both 3rd and 4th edition. I used Fitzgerald's 3rd edition book when I was in school (right before her 4th came out) to help me study certain areas as we were learning them in our primary care lectures. I also went to her review course at the beginning of May and got a book she handed out to attendees as well as purchased her 4th edition. I think having her book as well as Leik's is great because Leik's is really dense and practical with a lot of info broken down really succinctly in addition to 600+ practice questions. Leik also has really good concrete tips for the types of questions to expect as well as things to look out for in a clinical setting. BUT, the edition I have (and I'm not sure if she's made a new one) is from 2010 I think. So some of the screening tools, goals, parameters, recommendations, etc are out of date. I still love it. You just need to watch for that.


    Fitzgerald's is great too though because there are practice questions at the beginning of every topic to test your knowledge before you read about it, plus she covers the info more broadly. There is also some stuff she doesn't cover, but Leik does and vice versa. I can't speak to Barkley or Hollier, but I'm liking the books I'm using now. In any event, I may be changing my tune if I fail my exam in a couple of weeks, but here's hoping I pass.
  14. by   littlepeopleRNICU
    Quote from SnowShoeRN
    I have both Leik's FNP review book as well as Fitzgerald's FNP books both 3rd and 4th edition. I used Fitzgerald's 3rd edition book when I was in school (right before her 4th came out) to help me study certain areas as we were learning them in our primary care lectures. I also went to her review course at the beginning of May and got a book she handed out to attendees as well as purchased her 4th edition. I think having her book as well as Leik's is great because Leik's is really dense and practical with a lot of info broken down really succinctly in addition to 600+ practice questions. Leik also has really good concrete tips for the types of questions to expect as well as things to look out for in a clinical setting. BUT, the edition I have (and I'm not sure if she's made a new one) is from 2010 I think. So some of the screening tools, goals, parameters, recommendations, etc are out of date. I still love it. You just need to watch for that.


    Fitzgerald's is great too though because there are practice questions at the beginning of every topic to test your knowledge before you read about it, plus she covers the info more broadly. There is also some stuff she doesn't cover, but Leik does and vice versa. I can't speak to Barkley or Hollier, but I'm liking the books I'm using now. In any event, I may be changing my tune if I fail my exam in a couple of weeks, but here's hoping I pass.
    Thanks for the info!

close