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Master of Science in Nursing Students: How to Find and Secure Your Best Practicum Site

Finding a field experience that fits your career goals starts with knowing where to look.

As a student earning your online master’s degree in nursing, you’ve spent countless hours studying to advance your nursing career to the next level. Now it’s time to put that theoretical knowledge into practice in a real healthcare setting—it’s time for your practicum.

A practicum is not only an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in your online classes, but also a chance to receive mentoring from nurses who are experts in your area of interest. Your practicum can help you gain valuable field experience and develop the advanced nursing skills needed to follow your passion in a certain specialty or to move up as a nurse manager or leader in your healthcare organization.

Master of Science in Nursing Students: How to Find and Secure Your Best Practicum Site

How Do I Find a Practicum in the Healthcare Field?

A practicum is a critical part of your nursing education, but finding a practicum site or preceptor can be as intensive as a job search. If you’re an MSN student looking for a nursing practicum, here are five tips for finding and securing an opportunity that will best prepare you to achieve your career goals.

1) Tap Your Network

Sometimes in your career and life, people are the best resource. Spread the word in your personal and professional networks that you’re looking for a practicum. Reach out to colleagues, friends, or alumni of your online degree program or college. Make new connections with experienced nurse practitioners or leaders in your area of interest. Expand your network by joining local or national professional nurse practitioner organizations or by creating a profile for social media networking sites such as LinkedIn.

2) Leverage Resources From Your Online School

Your online master’s program likely maintains a list of sites at which MSN students have completed nursing practicums in the past. While those sites aren’t a guarantee, this list could be a good place to start and might spark some ideas for your search. Also, if your MSN program has a nurse field education coordinator, schedule an appointment to discuss potential opportunities. Your online university also likely provides career planning and development to students who are earning a degree. The career planning and development staff can help you tailor your resume and cover letter for finding a practicum. They can also help prepare you for interviews with potential preceptors.

3) Remember the Professional Associations

Professional nursing associations, organizations, and networks often offer online resources that can help students in master’s in nursing programs find practicum sites and preceptors. For example, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners includes a student resource center on its website. You might also consider asking your state board of nursing if they have a list of available practicum sites, preceptors, or resources.

4) Set Yourself Apart

Once you identify a potential practicum site and preceptor, it’s important to make a positive impression. Just like in a job interview, you will need to market your strengths and demonstrate to your potential mentor that you have the nursing skills and background required for the position. Build a practicum portfolio with your résumé, cover letter, letters of recommendation, and MSN program information. Your portfolio should not only point out your strengths, but also highlight the quality of your online nursing education. For example, be sure to list if your online college is accredited and include any accreditations specific to your MSN degree program.

5) Make Sure It’s a Fit

Finally, before you finalize a practicum site, be sure it’s a good fit for you and your nursing career goals. Ask yourself: Will you fit in with the people and culture? Will the site give you the training needed to complete your MSN program requirements? Does your potential preceptor have the credentials for the practicum and the skills required of a nurse mentor?

Finding a practicum where they can put their online education into practice helps students who are finishing up their MSN degree prepare for the next steps in their nursing career.

If you’re a registered nurse (RN) who wants to elevate your nursing career with advanced clinical and leadership training—and you aren’t currently enrolled in a master’s in nursing program—Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing online degree program is a great choice.

Accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Walden’s online MSN program has a BSN to MSN track for registered nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Walden also offers an RN to MSN track for registered nurses who enter the program with a hospital diploma, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree other than a BSN.

Whether you want to prepare to pursue certification and credentialing as a nurse practitioner, or you want a leadership role in nursing, earning a degree from an online MSN program can prepare you to make an even greater difference in patients’ lives.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a CCNE-accredited Master of Science in Nursing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (www.ccneaccreditation.org).

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