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Herzing Staff

What You Need to Know About Your MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner Clinical

One of the most important elements of your MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program is the clinical experience. Here's what you can expect.

One of the most important elements of your Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program is the clinical experience. Many schools require MSN-FNP students to find and secure their own clinical sites and preceptors, and this is often a pain point for prospective nursing students.

At Herzing, we take a different approach. We support and guide students through the process of securing clinical sites and provide ongoing assistance throughout the clinical experience to ensure your success.

Not sure what to expect from the whole clinical process? We have answers to your most important questions.

How does the clinical experience at Herzing work?

At Herzing, our clinical coordinators partner with you to assist with locating clinical sites and preceptors that have worked with Herzing students in the past. You are never on your own; your clinical coordinator is there to guide you and support you in securing a clinical site and preceptorship before the start of the term.

Herzing has strong partnerships with local healthcare providers at each of our campuses and across the United States, which affords our students access to the best clinical settings. If you have difficulty finding a local connection, we can even help you find a clinical site and an NP preceptor outside of your state if you are able and willing to travel.

Upon approval of the site and preceptor with our clinical coordinator, Herzing University works with both sites and preceptors to secure the required contracts and agreements needed for your placement.

How many clinical hours do I need?

You'll need to meet two minimums for each of the five clinical courses in the program: 135 clinical hours and 100 patient encounters. In total, you will need 500 patient encounters and 675 clinical hours.

This patient encounter requirement ensures you are exposed to a wide variety of different cases and patient populations, equipping you with the skills and experience you need to thrive in your own practice following graduation and certification.

What kinds of preceptors can I work with?

FNPs provide primary care for individuals and families across the lifespan and within culturally diverse environments. Your FNP clinical experiences are designed to expose you to a range of clinical settings so that you can gain experience in providing care for patients across the lifespan.

The ideal preceptor is an FNP who holds a minimum of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and has experience in the role. However, you can also work with preceptors who are:

  • Board-certified nurse practitioners (family, adult, pediatric, neonatal, women’s health, geriatric)
  • MD board certified in family medicine, internal medicine or a relevant population-focused area
  • DO board certified in family medicine, internal medicine or a relevant population-focused area
  • Certified Nurse Midwife with a master’s degree or higher
  • Physician Assistant with a master’s degree or higher

What clinical sites can I choose?

Exposure to diverse patient care environments makes you a better, more prepared nurse practitioner. Each of our FNP clinical courses has a different population focus and specific criteria regarding the appropriate clinical sites.

For example, for our course on Healthcare of Women across the Lifespan, acceptable clinical sites include obstetrics & gynecology practices, family practice clinics who see a large volume of women’s health-related cases, family planning clinics and federally funded primary care clinics with large volumes of women’s health-related cases.

Because the focus of our program is on primary care, hospital, emergency room and specialty settings are not generally accepted.

Can I complete my clinical at my current employer?

Yes. Students may complete their clinical rotations at their place of employment, but they cannot be completed during paid, working hours. In general, we do encourage students to use their professional connections when securing a clinical site and preceptor.

What is the best way to schedule my clinical hours?

Expect to spend 10-12 hours a week with your preceptor for the duration of the 16-week clinical course. Prior to the beginning of your clinical rotation, meet with your preceptor to agree on the days and times you plan to be at the clinical site. Fitting clinical hours into an already hectic life can be a challenge, so it’s important to discuss this with your clinical preceptor so you can find a schedule that works for the both of you.

If you are scheduled for two clinical courses in the same semester and you are completing your hours at the same site with the same mentor, you could:

  • Go to the clinical site two different days per week with one day devoted to one course and the other day devoted to the second course.
  • Complete clinical hours in alternating weeks. For example, even-numbered weeks would be for the first class and odd-numbered weeks for the second class.

If you need to miss a day of clinical, make sure you communicate with your preceptor and your instructor ahead of time. You will need to make up the missing hours and should work to reschedule as soon as possible.

Tips for finding and securing a clinical:

1. Reach out to your clinical coordinator. Students are encouraged to begin working with their clinical coordinator as early as possible. Some organizations require a 6-12 month request for preceptors, so it’s important to start conversations with your clinical coordinator and your clinical organization of choice early. Once you have secured a clinical site and preceptor, you will also need to get final approval from your coordinator and the program/department chair.

At Herzing, the formal clinical guidance process begins approximately six months prior to the start of the clinical term. Students can choose to set up a clinical coaching call with their coordinator to discuss all clinical requirements and deadlines, as well as what to expect from their courses.

2. Take the clinical readiness course. The Herzing FNP program includes a Clinical Readiness Course to prepare you for success in securing a preceptorship and maximizing your clinical experiences. This is a required course that will need to be taken at least one term prior to beginning your clinical courses.

3. Treat it like a job search. It’s best to approach a clinical site with a face-to-face meeting, rather than email or phone calls. Prepare for your meeting as though it’s a job interview (i.e. dress professionally, come prepared with the required paperwork, etc.). Many of these clinical opportunities lead to future employment after graduation, so Herzing’s PRICE of Success values, including communication, timeliness, and professionalism, are vital to your success.

Still have questions about our FNP program? Check out our tips for finding the FNP program that’s right for you, and start your path today to become a family nurse practitioner.

Learn More About Our FNP Programs


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics 2023 / Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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