MSN/FNP Graduate School Prep: Part One

I found it hard at first to look back and remember graduate school and specific things about practicum and studying for boards even though it has not been THAT long ago. Call it PTSD or repression of traumatizing events, haha. I’m only half-joking and I think mine was so rough because I was either pregnant or with a newborn for the majority of it and working full-time (yikes) and still vaguely unsure of how I survived. I made the most of my practicums and was lucky enough to have had a lot of family support for help with the baby. My husband took on an extra part-time job so that I could go part-time for the final portion of my clinicals. It was still exhausting and I wanted to go to bed every night by 9pm if not earlier.

I had to document each encounter in our school’s system using IC9 codes (now ICD10) and CPT codes for all the visits. As annoyingly time consuming as this was, it was worth it in the end because I had exact numbers for the different types of patients I had seen and procedures completed. The reason that this practice was so valuable was because it made that information readily available when applying for hospital privileges. I was lucky in that my school provided a program from which an excel sheet could be extracted but if yours does not I would recommend keeping track as it may save you time in the long run.


funny ICD10

(Image courtesy of heathcarenews I believe…I can’t remember where it came from so forgive me, I had saved as a joke but thought it to be funny)


EMRs suck. That’s the long and the short of it but they are also a necessity for the majority of practices. They slow you down compared with paper but very few practices are eligible to use that anymore. Fortunately, most nurses have already had some experience with EMR (electronic medical records) prior to grad school and therefore have an idea of the layout. Ours is in the form of (very detailed) SOAP notes, which from what I gather, is the current standard for most NP programs. So if you haven’t already familiarized yourself with this format then go ahead and start.

Soap note

Another extremely free and valuable resource I used was Evernote (for both desktop and my phone). It made it easy for me to do studying on the go during small downtimes I had (waiting for an appointment, riding in the car, etc). I would copy and paste study plans there especially as I was getting ready to study for boards. I was not aware of how valuable this resource would be when first starting, but had I known, I would have started using it with each didactic course at the beginning of my program. You can arrange different notebooks for each course like I did then have individual “notes” for each topic.


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When I was ready to study for boards (and pre-boards we had to pass a comprehensive final at my school which I found to be more difficult than boards) I took practice tests then focused on my weaker areas or areas I was less familiar with in my past clinical experiences.


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I just used the free version and have never tried the paid for version but it might be worth looking into if you find you need more storage space. I believe the free is now 60mb limit. However, I have many notebooks and it has not yelled at me yet to upgrade. Again, I have yet to receive anything from any company unless I otherwise mention so this is all just personal opinion.

As silly as it may sound, set yourself out a study plan and make it realistic. Most people in graduate school have the added weight of balancing family time, work, etc. Where are you going to squeeze in textbook reading assignments? Papers? Research? I did this for boards and wish I had created such a schedule for papers and didactic work. I’m pretty “Type A” anyway but I was forced to be even more so with all that was going on with life. Trying to fit in some study-time when I had a sitter on non-work days or when my hubby was going to be home was difficult and required preparation. We were on a tight budget especially at the end when I had to drop down to part-time so I went to Target, bought a large dry-erase calendar and skinny dry-erase markers and color coded our schedules. Even the Moose’s schedule (my hubby) who was begrudgingly standing in the kitchen acting put-off as I asked him day after day what his plans were so that I could schedule everything.

I try to save helpful things I find on Pinterest if you want to follow me or any of my boards you may find them helpful. I’m under Everyday Empress and have a board E2NP where I try to put helpful advice/sites as well as posts if you’ve missed any. Recently I have been adding equipment I have found helpful (some that I just like 🙂

Until next time!





I have had my mommy blog for some time nowbut I’ve always wanted to have my own NP blog. Both to connect with other NPs out there and to provide folks out there with some general thoughts and information that I find helpful. Again, second to there being non-self-governing persons who refuse to take responsibility for their own decisions/actions please see my disclaimer.

And no…I’m not bitter but anyone who’s worked as a health care professional can understand where I’m coming from; I work especially hard at trying to help patients take care of themselves but many just want a quick fix. How many times have you had patients leave your office angrily because you recommended only over-the-counter medicines for symptom relief and explained antibiotics wouldn’t help their cold? I can’t say it’s always the patient but rather our cultures expectations for working. I don’t know about my friends in other countries but here in America, at least the portion I live in, you generally are looked down upon if you call out sick. (Those same coworkers also get angry when they contract your plague.)

It’s not all bad here, we don’t have to wait months and months for urgent treatments, but the focus of our healthcare system has moved less and less away from patient self-care and responsibility and more towards customer service which is borderline disastrous. Don’t believe me? See here and here . It makes absolute sense that someone would rather have a pint of craft beer, filet mignon and truffle fries with a chocolate cake slice as big as your face over a 9-inch dinner plate with arugula and microgreens. Hell, I’d have a hard time saying no to the first but when your cholesterol is 300, you sit at a desk for 8-10 hours a day and Netflix marathon every night afterwards, you definitely need the later or you’re likely investing in a heart disease savings account with pretty terrible returns. However, how immediately satisfied do you think a person is going to be when you try to tell them they need to limit or avoid their favorite foods? It’s like showing a preschooler candy and saying, “See this? I know you want it, but you can’t have it!” Cue tantrum. Patients are not happy about being told they are the problem no matter how nicely you tell them and babying them and letting them lead the same old lifestyle earns you a gold star and them an early grave. 

I’m not a big fan of standardizing testing and scores in general but that’s another matter. I love my patients and I want them to be healthy and if you are also a provider I hope you feel the same way and keep your chin up and join me in bracing ourselves until the whole business blows over while waiting to come up with a way to fix it. 

I also hope you join me in celebrating my successes and failures (let’s call them life lessons) as I move forward in my career and try to make the world a tad bit better one patient at a time.

Until then, ciao!