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3 Reasons Why NP Students Should Advocate for More Clinical Hours

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3 Reasons Why NP Students Should Advocate for More Clinical Hours

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NP programs require a minimum of 500 clinical hours in order to graduate and sit for boards. These clinical hour requirements are one of the most important aspects of NP school. They are essential because this gives the student the opportunity to practice the skills they have learned in their courses in real life settings. Preceptors use this time to share their knowledge and guide the student to develop their critical thinking skills in their field of expertise. This begs the question, is doing the bare minimum number of hours enough, or should students try to get extra hours?

One reason to try and get more hours with a preceptor is repetition. The more hours you are exposed to a variety of disease processes, the more you are comfortable taking care of patients. The student will be a better practitioner upon graduation if they have have treated 100 patients with chest pain because they advocated for more clinical hours, than they would have been if they got the bare minimum and only treated 50 patients with this chief complaint.

A second reason to try and get more clinical hours is it allows the student to participate in more variety. The more the student sees in clinical with the guidance of a preceptor, the better. For example, not every patient with a urinary tract infection has the same exact symptoms, and there are some outliers. More clinical hours gives the student the opportunity to assist in the diagnosis and treatment plan for these patients. In addition, more clinical hours could give the student the opportunity to work on the administration side. For example, they could shadow the Chief Nursing Office (CNO) or a medical director. This gives the student the chance to see a new side of the practice and enhance their knowledge on the various aspects of business in healthcare. The bottom line: more experience means more comfortability in the new role as a provider.

A third reason an NP student should try and get more clinical hours is the student is able to see how they would like to function as an NP when they get their first job. For example, the student may recognize that they do not want to schedule new patient assessments at the end of the day, because these take a lot of time. They may acknowledge the need to have at least 15 minutes between patients in order to properly document on the previous patient, and review the next patient’s chart. This also allows the student to learn to prioritize their day and make a plan in order to stay on schedule. This also allows NP students to network with other practitioners and show that they stand out because they go above and beyond what their program requires.

Clinical hours are a vital piece of NP student programs. Advocating for more clinical hours helps the student with repetition, gain more knowledge in patient care, and learn how they want to run their day as a new NP. The more exposure in a new field a student has, the more prepared they will be upon graduation.

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Elizabeth Francis, BSN, RN

Emergency Department registered nurse and doctoral student at Duke University, specializing in Psychiatric Mental Health and Addictions.

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