Applying for a nurse practitioner training program is not always an easy task. Along with the work of choosing the right postgraduate program for you from the hundreds that are now available, it’s also important to ensure that you meet the often-demanding entry requirements for these programs. For nurses who are qualified with a master’s degree or a doctor of nursing practice degree, postgraduate programs designed to prepare them for a role as a nurse practitioner will often have a long list of entry requirements including letters of recommendation, admissions essays and interviews along with requirements surrounding experience and more. However, by investing time and energy into applying for a nurse practitioner training program, you will often be rewarded.
No matter how long you have been working as a nurse or what you’ve done so far since getting a master’s degree, applying for a postgraduate certificate in nursing to become a nurse practitioner in the future can be a wise idea. Nurse practitioner roles are currently in higher demand than ever before as these professionals step up to close the gap that has been created by the shortage of primary care physicians throughout the country. The following tips will help you stand out more as an applicant and help you get a clearer understanding of the factors that are going to matter the most to admissions staff.
Qualities That Make You Stand Out
It’s important to understand that when applying for a postgraduate nurse practitioner training program or nursing certificate, admissions staff are not just looking for one attribute. They will usually focus on a wide range of different attributes to consider whether or not you are a good fit for the program including your GPA, nursing experience, science subject performance, and your letters of recommendation and references to name a few. In addition, they won’t just look at your GPA as a whole – many admissions staff will take your coursework into account and use this to analyze your performance in your master’s in nursing and previous nursing courses. Clinical course and program performance from the past is also likely to be taken into account.
My GPA Isn’t the Best – Now What?
If your GPA is lower than you hoped it would be, the good news is that this doesn’t automatically mean that you will not be accepted to study a postgraduate certificate to become a nurse practitioner. A below average academic performance in the past does not always need to get in the way of reaching your career goals, especially if it hasn’t stopped you from becoming a registered nurse and you have the experience in nursing to prove that you are good at your job. Even if your GPA isn’t the highest, it’s worth bearing in mind that admissions staff will usually look at the whole individual and consider everything that you bring to the program rather than just your previous grades. For example, they may be willing to overlook your GPA if you can make up for it with strong letters of recommendation and a lot of nursing experience behind you. You may also want to consider improving your application by taking other additional programs to prove that you are willing to learn and have improved since.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
When applying for a nurse practitioner postgraduate training program, there are several common mistakes that you should be aware of and avoid. These typically include mistakes with letters of recommendation and references, and mistakes during the admissions interviews. For example, not carefully choosing the people who you ask to provide you with references and recommendations could become a problem for you in the future. When asking for somebody to provide a letter of recommendation or reference for your application, it’s important to bear in mind that these letters often carry a lot of weight, and the more reputable the sender, the better. It’s important to ask somebody who is going to be respected by the admissions staff such as a professor from your previous nursing school or a current or previous healthcare employer.
When it comes to recommendations and letters of reference, some schools will ask you to provide at least three. Two of these will typically need to be from individuals who are educated to the doctorate level in nursing. Before you apply, it might be worth spending some time expanding your professional network to find more suitable people to write your letters, or reaching out to previous employers or professors to see if they would be willing to help with this aspect of your application.
When it comes to the interview, this is another area where it is important for applicants to avoid some of the most common mistakes made throughout the application process. One common mistake to make sure that you avoid is failing to do enough research into the program that you are applying for. The interviews for these programs can often be quite intense and rigorous, and the more prepared you are, the more impressive your performance will be. Many applicants mistakenly believe that, once they have been invited to the interview, this means that they are probably going to get through onto the program, but this is where they are caught out. Before attending the interview, the best thing that you can do is spend some time thoroughly researching the program and the school and gaining a solid and clear understanding of exactly what will be expected of you as a student.
The Role of Past Nursing Experience
Most postgraduate nurse practitioner training programs will require you to have some experience in nursing before you are able to apply. This is because the program is designed to prepare you for work as an advanced practice registered nurse who will have more authority, responsibility and autonomy compared to a registered nurse. In addition to this, applicants are usually required to possess at least a master’s degree in nursing in order to be considered. Most programs require one year of nursing experience at the very least alongside a master’s degree in order to be in with a chance of being accepted. The type of experience that you will have been expected to gain as a nurse may vary depending on the specialty of the program that you have chosen to apply for. For example, general nursing may be fine if you want to study to become a family nurse practitioner, while you will usually be expected to have spent some time working in psychiatric facilities if you are hoping to start a career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. If you want to work as a nurse practitioner in a specialty area that you have not gained any or much experience in as a nurse so far, it’s a good idea to try and get some more experience in this field before you apply in order to improve your chances of acceptance.
Your Extracurricular Activities
When applying for a nurse practitioner postgraduate training program, it’s important to consider the fact that extracurricular activities will often be taken into consideration when you are evaluated as a potential student. Relevant extracurricular activities such as becoming a member of professional nursing organizations, working towards specialty certificates and doing more leadership activities could help to strengthen your application. In addition, seeking out new ways to gain more experience in nursing, such as military or travel nursing positions, can also help you stand out as an applicant and make it easier for you to demonstrate your commitment to the profession and learning more.
Preparing for the Admissions Interview
After applying to a nurse practitioner postgraduate training program, you are likely to be invited for a face-to-face interview if you pass the paper or online application stage. While many of these interviews are currently being conducted over Zoom or other teleconferencing software programs due to COVID-19, the process is basically the same. When it comes to evaluating prospective students, the interview performance is often something that admissions staff will take very seriously and will often use to make their final decision as to whether or not an applicant is a good fit for the program. After all, anybody can make themselves sound good on paper but whether or not they live up to expectations in an interview is often another story.
Because of this, taking the time to make sure that you are fully prepared for the admissions interview is one of the most important parts of the process. Spend some time getting ready for the potential questions that will be asked of you. You can usually expect to answer questions that are designed to give you the chance to demonstrate important nursing skills such as critical thinking and communication skills, along with your knowledge and awareness of the healthcare industry and environments.
Whether you’ve been in nursing for years or want to get into a nurse practitioner role as quickly as possible, getting onto a postgraduate nurse practitioner training program is not always an easy task. Keep these steps in mind as you go through the application to strengthen your chances of moving forward in your career.