Nurse Practitioner Training
When discussing any program for nurse practitioners, the curriculum can be divided into two sections: education and training. While education refers to the coursework and labs that educate aspiring nurse practitioners, training refers to the hands-on experience that allows practitioners to train their skills. All NP programs, whether traditional campus-based programs, online programs, standard-paced or accelerated, include a substantial training component. Hands-on training usually begins after the first few courses, and NP candidates should have many hundreds of hours of clinical training behind them by the time they apply to sit for their national certification exam.
Who establishes the training requirements for nurse practitioners?
Part of becoming a nurse practitioner requires meeting two sets of training guidelines. The first is the licensing criteria from your state's nursing board. In most cases, the requirements include attending a board approved learning institution as well as proof of certification from a recognized certifying agency, such as the American Nursing Credentialing Center. The certification agency then has its own requirements to be met before a candidate is eligible to take the examinations and become certified. While many states have requirements that are similar to those of the ANCC, they may not be exactly the same, and a candidate wanting to practice within their specialty area as a nurse practitioner needs to meet the training requirements to be both licensed and certified. For the ANCC, a candidate must have 500 clinical hours in order to sit for the examination. If a state's requirements are higher, then the state's guideline must also be met in order for the candidate to receive their NP license, even though they've qualified for their certification with 500 clinical hours.
How do nurse practitioners train?
Nurse practitioners train by shadowing and then practicing as nurses. Early in their programs, students observe experienced nurses and ask questions. As nurses move through their programs, they are given more and more responsibility for the care they are delivering until by the end of their training program they are operating independently under only the general and hands-off supervision of the attending practitioner. Nurses who enter NP programs with existing nursing degrees may find that they are placed directly into hands-on clinical experiences, with less shadowing and observation than a student new to the field. A faculty supervisor and designated master-nurse/nurse practitioner are assigned to an NP student at all times and in all settings.
Nurse practitioner schools strive to help NPs-in-training to do as much of their practical work as possible in their specialty population. Specialty selections may include: pediatric, geriatric, family, adult, acute care and psychiatric, advanced diabetic management and school nurse. NP candidates should select their specialty population fairly early in the program, as the ANCC requires that certain specialty-oriented courses be taken in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exams. Fieldwork that allows the candidate access to their specialty population must then be coordinated.
Where do nurse practitioners get their clinical training?
Nurse practitioners can work in nearly all medical environments, but their specialty usually determines where much of the clinical training happens. While early practice in assessment happens in the classroom with fellow students, practice quickly moves to outside clinical environments where NP students encounter patients with real problems.
Nurse practitioner students can practice their skills in physician practices, in medical centers, in ambulatory surgery centers, in family practice clinics, in pediatric specialty units and in trauma centers. While most programs establish clinical rotations that expose nurse practitioner students to a wide variety of clinical conditions, the program can also move the NP student into their clinical specialty area to create the most qualified provider. NP students who are working to become acute care NPs often find the bulk of their clinical experience is organized in hospitals. Family nurse practitioners may spend some time in the acute hospital setting, but may also find more of their clinical experiences occur in a general practitioner's office. Pediatric nurse practitioner students spend part of their clinical training in hospitals, especially those that have neonatal or pediatric intensive care units (NICU/PICU's), but may also spend part of their clinical training in pediatric physician practices.
Nurse practitioner students who are already working nurses can often organize a portion of the clinical training hours in their current work environments.