by Bobby Anderson, RN, Staff Writer
Your friends, your coworkers, people you went to nursing school with – odds are that at least somebody in your circle is going back to school to pursue their advanced practice degree.
With interest at an all-time high that means nurses in the region are competing with one another for clinical spots and preceptorships already in short supply.
For so many Oklahoma nurses, the struggle to find placement for those needed hours to graduate is real.
Message boards and Facebook groups are lit up with people trying to make and leverage contacts.
Shelby Pope, RN, BSN was one of those students frantically searching and she has some advice.
“Definitely do not wait until the last minute,” the St. John nurse and current student said. “Start Day One finding out everything you need for your clinical site requirements.”
Pope originally started pursuing her degree online through the University of South Alabama.
When it came to finding preceptors to clock the required clinical hours she quickly found out she was on her own.
Her school offered no support in obtaining placement, only a laundry list of requirements.
“I knew it was going to be a fight to find preceptors,” Pope said. “At first I tried to call and that got me absolutely nowhere. I reached out on social media but there was nothing solid.”
Honestly, I just Googled all the clinics and the specialties I needed for everywhere in Tulsa and Bartlesville. I made a list and printed it off.”
With no luck she decided to hit the pavement.
She visited 70 different clinics. Most she couldn’t get past the reception desk. Responses varied.
Some providers were booked for a year – even two years – out for students.
Others simply weren’t taking NP students at all or had had a bad experience with their last student.
The issue of how to deal with the front desk intrigued her.
She created welcome packets that included her resume, her clinical documentation requirements, a letter to the provider and a professional photo.
And a box of bakery cookies and fresh assorted donuts didn’t hurt either.
“Food always works for nurses,” Pope said.
The photo idea, which came much later, proved to be the turning point.
She got three responses and placement.
“Maybe it’s everywhere but I really feel like living so close to Tulsa or OKC its very saturated with students,” she said. “Just to be frank, a lot of bedside nurses are trying to get out of acute care because of the circumstances. There’s high patient ratios. Big industries are buying out hospitals and we’re not liking what we’re seeing in the health care industry.”
“A lot want to get in a slower paced, safer environment. My colleagues, they’re tired. I don’t agree or disagree but I think that might be a reason why there are so many students.”
And the demand has universities opening up online programs right and left, creating tension among NP students.
Pope has since switched to the University of Tulsa’s doctor of nursing practice career path. Pope enjoys the fact that TU secures all her clinical placements through her expected graduation in 2021.
Until then, Pope is currently looking for an RN staff position in primary care, urgent care or public health in the Tulsa/Bartlesville area.
She worked five years as a neuro nurse at the St. John Heyman Stroke Center in Tulsa before moving to the float pool, where she now goes to nearly every unit in the hospital.
“I always thought I would go to med school,” Pope said. “I was in the Army and that was my life plan for the Army to pay for med school.”
But life happens and so did pregnancy. Seven years later her daughter made her rethink her priorities.
“She changed my perspective on things and I wanted to get into a position where I could provide for our family quicker,” she said. “I feel God pushed me into that course because I actually love nursing now. Being in a clinical role and seeing providers I think I definitely chose the better route.”
Her time on the stroke floor only emboldened her thoughts of advancing her practice. Her physicians pushed and prodded her as well.
“Once I got to the point where I saw the patient and knew what they needed, I knew I needed to become a provider,” she said. “I had that skill set already, working in acute care. I’ve seen a lot of residents with that wide-eyed look. Being a bedside nurse to begin with really is so essential.”