Enjoying Your NP School Years

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NP students frequently ask me if there is anything they can do before graduation to help prepare for their first job. I assume they are looking for the usual “job-search advice,” because they seem somewhat surprised when I tell them what they are doing now—in school—is the best preparation.

I don’t actively encourage students to start job searching while still in school, because school is hard and it’s busy, and once you are done, you are done. No one returns (voluntarily) to repeat their NP program a second time. Studying and clinicals deserve your full attention. Being a student is like having a passport to observe and experience an incredible amount of medical conditions and situations without having full responsibility yet. Once you are done and working, you won’t have the luxury of just being there to learn. You are missing out if you don’t take full advantage of your student status. Absorb everything you possibly can; use the “I am a student, can I watch/listen/tag-along” line every chance you get before you graduate. Trust me. Once you start your first job, you are going to miss it.

I advise students to do their best in prioritizing school over their RN job. Unfortunately, I see too often that school gets slotted around in between work schedules. Yes, I understand that with the high cost of tuition and general living expenses most students have to work, but school is an investment and you need to nurture that investment or it won’t grow. Your current job is about to become your past; your new role is your future. You will be an NP for the rest of your career and a hospital nurse only until you can work as a nurse practitioner.

So where does it make most sense to focus your efforts? Do you want to continue to invest in something you will be leaving soon or does it make more sense to put your energy into where you wish to be for the next few decades? Again, you won’t be an NP student but once. Think about it.

The last piece of advice I give students is to find their passion. Job hunting before you have given some really serious thought to the type of position you want is not a recipe for happiness. It’s tempting to jump at the first offer you receive, especially when you are a student and struggling financially. Any job with a regular paycheck can look appealing. This is why so many new grads are out looking for a new job in less than a year after they start their first job.

Slow down, be the best student you can, and do some soul searching. Your future NP self will thank you.

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About Author

Renee Dahring, NP

Renee Dahring received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from North Dakota State University. In 2000, she earned her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and was reborn as a family nurse practitioner. She currently works as an NP in various correctional settings and teaches at a local university. She has several years of experience in recruiting and helping NPs find their dream jobs and is a featured speaker on resume writing and interviewing. In addition to being a self-proclaimed expert on job seeking, she continues her endless quest to promote latex allergy awareness.

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