Behind the Scenes of the FNP Immersion Weekend By Ryan Segovich (?) | Jun 22, 2015 A vital, hands-on experience for Family Nurse Practitioner students to master clinical and interpersonal skills Demand for primary care has risen steadily since more than 30 million new people gained access to healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act in 2012, yet experts anticipate a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians by 2020. Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs), who are the principal group of advanced-practice nurses delivering primary care in the United States, will play an integral role in responding to growing primary care needs. Hands-on learning is a crucial part of FNP education, helping students to master the many clinical and interpersonal skills their future roles will require. Nurses earning their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) through the online FNP Specialty Track at Chamberlain College of Nursing gain some of that hands-on experience from an immersion weekend, where they have the opportunity to observe, practice and be evaluated on clinical assessment skills and to prepare for their upcoming practicum experiences. “The idea behind the immersion weekend is that online nurse practitioner programs have difficulty verifying students’ clinical competency before entering clinical rotations,” said John Distler DPA, MBA, MS, FNP-C, FAANP, Dean of online programs. “Chamberlain has recognized that direct evaluations of students’ competencies are essential to ensure quality and safety in advanced practice nursing education.” The weekend also allows students to further experience Chamberlain Care. Extra time is taken with students to go through an overview of what to expect in NR-511: Differential Diagnosis and Primary Care, their first clinical course. This preparation helps set students up for continued success. A Meeting of Minds The immersion weekend is the first time MSN-FNP students meet with the professors who have been teaching them all along. This meeting enhances the strong connections made through the online environment and also enables students to strengthen their relationships with their peers. “The nature of the immersion weekend gives professors and students an opportunity for direct interaction, which enhances the learning and mastery of the skills taught throughout the program,” said Kevin Letz, DNP, MBA, MSN, RN, CEN, CNE, FNP-C, ANP-BC, PNP-BC, FAPPex, FAANP, Associate Professor within the FNP Specialty Track. Sarah Traser, an MSN-FNP student, agreed. “The immersion experience itself connects you to a community,” she said. “You build on your connection with your professors and create new ones with fellow students.” Applying New Skills Along with fostering the student-professor relationship, the primary focus of the weekend is to help students learn to assess patients much like they would in a primary care setting. This experience brings to life what students have already learned online in their FNP-specific courses. For example, knowledge acquired in NR-507: Advanced Pathophysiology can be applied to assessing a patient with generalized abdominal pain – the student knows to look for functional changes associated with or resulting from certain conditions. “Getting to actually put your hands on some of the tools and see people that are already nurse practitioners use them, has been tremendously helpful,” added Traser. “The weekend takes everything you learned online to a new level.” “The immersion weekend gives professors and students an opportunity for direct interaction, which enhances the learning and mastery of the skills taught throughout the program.” – Kevin Letz, DNP, MBA, MSN, RN, CEN, CNE, FNP-C, ANP-BC, PNP-BC, FAPPex, FAANP Associate Professor Episodic Assessment Evaluations During the first day of the immersion weekend, students spend time with their professors going through five skill stations, assessing and diagnosing mock-patients. The assessments help students address the chief complaints they will most likely encounter as FNPs, such as generalized abdominal pain, skin rash or non-specific headache. They get to see what performing these assessments looks like, as well as the tools and techniques involved. On the second day, students are called upon to demonstrate how to perform one of the five assessments. This gives them the opportunity to showcase the new skills they have acquired during the weekend. It also lets them receive live feedback. Professors work with students to address any aspects of the assessment with which they may have struggled, as well as demonstrate techniques again if necessary. Once students satisfactorily complete their demonstration, their immersion weekend is complete. “My experience with the immersion weekend was great. I learned the proper way to assess patients that will help you to not miss something which may be important,” said student Christie England. “The teachers are really helpful in showing you how to not miss that crucial step.” With one-third of physicians expected to retire within the next decade, the industry will lean on FNPs to manage patient care, diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions, educate patients on disease prevention and health management, and even prescribe medications in some states. Chamberlain’s FNP immersion weekend provides vital hands-on, interactive experiences that give FNP students a test drive for managing these healthcare needs in patients – from birth to geriatrics – in a variety of settings.