Tips for Shadowing a Nurse Practitioner

shadowing nurse practitioner

Shadowing a nurse practitioner gives you an opportunity beyond looking up what NPs can do and witness the day-to-day of this career. You can see where NPs work, what NPs do, who NPs work with, and how NPs do their job. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions about the profession.

Here are some of my tips to have a successful and informative shadowing experience:

Preparation is Key

In order to make the most of your time, I recommend a little bit a preparation. It is really helpful to not only sort out the logistics to prepare for the shadowing experience itself, but to also prepare for the specific place(s) you are shadowing at. An hour or two can really help you absorb as much as possible from this experience!

Be very clear about the logistics; where you are going (and parking!), when you should arrive and leave, what to wear, and who to contact. While discussing logistics, ask if they recommend any resources or diagnoses to look up ahead of time. Take some notes and bring them if appropriate so you can reference them and/or add to them. If you don’t have the opportunity to speak directly with the person(s) you are shadowing, ask at the end of the first day!

Remember that you are a SHADOW

Keep in mind the “shadow” part of shadowing! While the NP you are shadowing is happy to have you as a guest at their workplace, be respectful of their time (and the time of their patients!), space, and role.

Get involved only if they ask or give you permission and be conscious of what is legal or if there are any rules associated with the shadowing you are doing. Remember that you do not work there! Be sure to also ask if they want to introduce you to patients or if they would like you to.

ASK questions

When time allows, ask questions! You should get a sense of when it is appropriate to do so. Some ideas for you – likes and dislikes, how they prepare for the day, what their school experience was like, if they recommend anyone else to shadow in this profession, and what tips they have about deciding to become a NP and how to be a successful one. Lastly, try to avoid asking questions that you can easily look up (they should be part of your preparation!).

ETIQUETTE is important

While this is a voluntary experience, be as respectful and professional as possible. Dress appropriately, be on time, be respectful to all of the staff, put your phone on silent and avoid using it, and write a thank you note. For all you know, this could be your future workplace! 🙂

I hope that these tips are helpful as you considering shadowing a NP. While it can be very helpful to shadow a NP if you are potentially interested in the profession, it can also be helpful to shadow folks in similar roles to help you compare and contrast! Also, the beauty of nursing is how many different types of jobs you can have and this applies to NPs as well. Shadowing a nurse practitioner in various specialties can also give you some extra insight.


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Want to know more about what it takes to be a nurse practitioner? Download this FREE eBook from BoardVitals, The Complete Guide to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner, which is filled with what you need to know from applying to NP school to clinical practice.

Or check out the BoardVitals Blog for more articles on Advanced Practice Nursing.

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Katy B is a pediatric neurosurgery nurse practitioner in Northern California. She created her Instagram page @katybpnp while completing a direct entry NP program at UCSF. In 2019, she graduated from the program, passed her PNP-PC boards (with the help of BoardVitals!), and started her first NP job at her dream children’s hospital.

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