I recently had the pleasure of spending 3 days with some amazing pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) colleagues at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NAPNAP) Conference in Denver. I met some of the most wonderful nurse practitioners from across the spectrum: PNPs, students, faculty members, Deans of Nursing, and other types of nurse practitioners (NPs). It was a sincere pleasure networking with so many nurse practitioners who have dedicated their professional lives to improving the lives of children and their families. As I heard several times over, “Children are NOT little adults!” They were enthusiastic and earnest in their desire to increase their pediatric knowledge base and to connect with colleagues.
Interspersed in the energy however, I repeatedly encountered a recurrent theme I would like to share with you. These nurse practitioners are inundated with requests for preceptors. Most love to teach and want to share their knowledge and passion with the next generation of NPs. The problem they report is that the next generation of FNP students often appear apathetic and lackadaisical about learning pediatrics! This disinterest in learning pediatrics is causing these pediatric preceptors to feel disheartened and disinterested in teaching FNP students. Here are some of the comments they reported FNP students have said in their pediatric rotations: "I am only here to get my hours done and become an FNP.” "I am not going to do peds when I get out- I am only doing this because I have to do this to graduate." Even if the student doesn’t directly verbalize this, the disinterest is obvious to these dedicated practitioners (and the office staff).
This attitude is unacceptable and troublesome, and it’s causing preceptors to quit precepting. These pediatric preceptors (whether NP, PA or MD) are dedicating their time to educate you! Precepting results in decreased productivity, which often results in less income. They spend their time and energy compiling educational material and carefully crafting teaching plans for you. They miss out on family and personal time so they can stay late and work with you! They want you to be excited and interested about pediatric healthcare! It is not fair to these dedicated professionals to act otherwise. We must train our FNPs well in pediatrics because children and their families deserve quality healthcare.
FNP students, a disinterested attitude is NOT ok! FNP faculty, please counsel students that this is NOT acceptable. FNP schools, please carefully screen students. Regardless of the area in which you end up working, you must be respectful and appreciative of your preceptor and his/her specialty. Soak up every morsel of knowledge you can from every clinical rotation. Before you know it, you will be out and practicing, and lives will depend on you. (If nothing else, it will help you on Boards.)
There is a serious preceptor shortage, especially for pediatric rotations, and this is only making the problem worse. I am dedicated to helping improve the preceptor problem for nurse practitioners, and I continue to search for ways we can help with this issue. Students, being gracious and interested in your clinical rotations will motivate preceptors. If preceptors don’t feel appreciated, they won’t precept! Compassion and passion are some of the characteristics that make nurses special. Demonstrate those behaviors at every clinical rotation. The profession and your future patients need you and are counting on you.