Best Ways For FNP Students To Gain Practical Skills


The demand for Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) is currently on the rise. Going back to school can help increase job opportunities and compensation, which can, in turn, help alleviate the healthcare gaps that are increasingly being seen in society today.

There is a lot to learn if nurse practitioners want to provide patients and their families with the highest level of care possible. In addition to choosing a nurse practitioner program that offers a great variety of course offerings and some opportunities to specialize, students should attempt to find ways to gain additional experience and credentials to help them on their career journey. This article explores some of those ways.

Clinical rotations

All FNP students must complete clinical placements to obtain their degree and qualify for their FNP license. Clinical rotations enable students to use all the skills they have learned so far in their classes. Clinical placements involve students working closely with a preceptor to perform all the duties and tasks they will be doing as a fully licensed FNP. Of course, there are a few things that students will not be able to take on independently, but they will be able to observe and ask questions. Prescribing medication is a good example of a task that will be left to the preceptor, but students will be able to do this themselves once they have attained licensure. 

Clinical rotations are a chance to gain specialized experiences as well. For example, a healthcare student who wants to be an FNP should consider a degree program that helps them find a preceptor who can offer the experience they need. Some Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees may enable students to specialize in adult-gerontology, for example, so they can help the large population of aging adults that are creating a huge demand for primary medical care.

Finding the right preceptor

A preceptor is a medical professional who is fully licensed and willing to let a student gain experience by assisting them and following them on their rounds. FNP students are allowed to perform some duties as they already have an RN license, but other duties may be limited as they are not fully licensed FNPs. 

Many of the FNP degree programs include help finding a preceptor and clinical placement, but nursing students should still be encouraged to explore other options available to them. If a DNP student chooses to specialize in a certain area of medicine, such as pediatrics, then it is to their benefit to find a preceptor who specializes in the chosen area.

Volunteer work

There are many non-profit agencies that allow students to gain a variety of experiences that will help them as an FNP. There are even more opportunities for licensed RNs. Helping the Red Cross with blood drives, for example, is one volunteer position that is fairly easy to obtain in many states.

Free or sliding-scale health clinics are another great way to gain medical experience and help those from disadvantaged backgrounds get the care they need. Some medical clinics may offer specialized services on certain days, which can allow students to gain a lot of very specific experience in a particular area of medicine.

Furthermore, some medical professionals travel to other countries for volunteer work. This is a good opportunity to gain experience treating conditions that may be rarer in the US and work with those who are severely in need of basic medical care.

Simulation labs

During a simulation lab, an FNP can get hands-on experience diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions. These labs provide fake patients with simulated medical charts, a list of symptoms, and more. During these simulations, students are expected to use the information provided to make a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. 

Labs are effective as they mimic real life as much as possible. This offers the opportunity to practice difficult diagnoses without the risk of harming patients. Students can learn a lot from simulations, especially as they can be made increasingly difficult to mimic rare circumstances.


Unfortunately, internships have a reputation for being unpaid, but in the case of nursing, there is pay throughout the internship more often than not. During the summer months, in particular, some FNP students find that an internship is a great way to gain extra experience and add something great to their resume that can help when they apply for jobs in the future.

The Mayo Clinic offers many nursing internships that help students gain experience in their area of choice. Extern programs allow some students the opportunity to do an internship at a different location, too.

Internships are fairly competitive, especially those at top clinics, hospitals, and research centers. Those who want to gain a paid internship need to apply well in advance. Some job sites list internship opportunities and may help streamline the application process.


There is a lot that students can learn by attending conferences and seminars. Not only will they have great opportunities to socialize and enjoy the company of others in the profession, but they will also learn networking and communication skills. 

Taking an active role in conferences offers countless benefits. Listening to lectures and presentations from other talented medical professionals is extremely valuable. In fact, attendees may be among the first people to know about groundbreaking research opportunities, for example!

Individuals with significant experience in a particular specialty might consider playing a more active role in presentations. Some medical professionals represent their employers and facilities on boards, offer presentations, or sit at booths to talk to others about future employment.

No matter what role students play at a conference, it is guaranteed that they will walk away with more professional experience.

Gain additional certifications and credentials

There are certifications and credentials students can earn as an RN working towards a DNP. They should explore online educational opportunities and continuing education courses in their area as well. Certifications can be earned in ambulatory care, informatics, pediatrics, psychiatry, and more. 

Having additional credentials can help RNs qualify for more jobs and offer patients a higher level of care. Additional courses can also count towards continuing education requirements for the medical license renewal.

Online videos

There are countless medical videos available online that DNP students can watch to learn more about specific topics. This can be very beneficial for visual learners and can help them stay up to date on the most current medical trends. Listening to lectures by other medical professionals is a lot easier, thanks to YouTube and other video platforms. 

There are also plenty of short videos that explain specific concepts that can clarify points if there is any confusion about a topic.

Volunteer in different departments 

An individual working as an RN in a specific department can consider volunteering in another department to gain experience. If things are slow in one department, then they could help out a busier department during the workday. Employers and department heads may be willing to let employees gain experience in other areas of the medical facility.

Choosing the right degree program

Gaining a DNP is an important step in an FNP career. This is why it is critical that students choose the right degree program. The University of Indianapolis offers an online DNP Family Nurse Practitioner program that can be completed in just ten semesters. Clinical placement services are included so students can be assured that they will get a placement that is within a reasonable commute of where they live. In addition, advisors will be available to ensure students receive a placement that helps them gain the specialty experience they desire. Through the BSN-DNP FNP course, students will learn to conduct very comprehensive health assessments on patients of all ages. In addition, there is an emphasis on providing preventative and primary care.

Advantages of becoming an FNP

More opportunities

There is a huge demand for medical professionals who are qualified to offer primary and preventative care services. It is quicker to train to be an FNP than an MD, so it makes a lot of sense for nurses to earn their DNP to help fill some major gaps in care that are continuously widening.

A DNP also has more opportunities for employment no matter what type of facility or work atmosphere an individual prefers.

Nurses who are considering relocating may find that earning a DNP can make them more attractive candidates for employers all over the country. Some medical facilities offer incentives and perks to help recruit talent to their workforce and ensure that they are fully staffed.

Increased autonomy

When compared to RNs, family nurse practitioners often have a significant level of autonomy within their practice. This can be achieved through various outlets, such as making independent clinical decisions, developing care plans for patients and managing patient care. As a result, this can be a highly rewarding profession.

A chance to take on different roles

An RN is limited in the scope of what they can do to help patients. Their primary role is to provide care and administer treatments, take vital signs, and perform other basic healthcare tasks. An FNP, on the other hand, will spend a lot of time diagnosing patients, creating treatment plans, providing primary care, and helping patients manage chronic conditions. In addition, they will refer patients to additional specialists and medical professionals for treatments and tests as needed.

Work with a greater variety of people 

Working as an FNP may allow nurses to work with and treat a greater variety of people or work within a specialty. For example, a nurse who works for a school system will treat younger patients. On the other hand, the demand for healthcare workers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities is high, so other students might find that they only work with seniors.

Lifelong learning opportunities

Due to the constantly evolving nature of the healthcare field, FNPs have the potential to engage in lifelong learning. They can involve themselves in emerging healthcare trends in order to stay up to date with the latest advancements in the medical field. They can also both undertake and evaluate research projects to stay informed.


Gaining as much experience as possible will benefit any FNP student as well as their future patients. Over the course of their education, it is important that FNP students find ways to enhance their experience and gain the specialized skills they need to achieve their career goals.

Choosing the right DNP program is important. It is one of the highest degrees nurses can earn, so students should ensure they are choosing a program that offers the most for the time and energy they will invest in it.

Clinical placements are required for these courses and are one of the best times to concentrate on gaining practical experience and learning from more experienced mentors.

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