Barkley & Associates Nurse Practitioner Review Course

 Yes, the time has finally arrived- preparing to take my NP board exam!  I've been studying for the exam using the materials I received while attending the Barkely & Associates review course.  I took this 2 day course several weeks ago along with several other NP students in my graduating class.

I will first start off by saying that I've taken review courses before- once for the GRE and once for the NCLEX and because of those experiences, I had low expectations for this course.  Well, to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement!  Thomas Barkley, the owner of the company, taught the 2 day course at a hotel in Philadelphia and he did an excellent job!  He was engaging, funny, direct and covered a lot of material in a short time.

Each student received a manual the same manual that he reviewed during the course and what has now become my bible for the board exam.  Barkley & Associates students have a 99% pass rate.  He highly recommends studying from only his course material for the test.  There is also an option to purchase the CD's of the live course, which some of the students did instead of the live course and some did both.  In addition, you can purchase practice tests which give you the correct answers and rationale for each question and a breakdown of what you missed based upon the particular topic. 

I would highly recommend a review course to anyone preparing to take the NP board exam and based upon my experience, I highly recommend Barkley & Associates (this is not a sponsored post). 

Healthcare Startup Interview

Remember how I mentioned that my ultimate dream job would be to work for a healthcare startup?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I landed an interview with a 13 person healthcare startup near Philadelphia.  Coincidentally, I found out about this company while preparing for a NP interview at a hospital in the city.  I was very interested in what this company was doing to prevent 30 day readmission rates.  So, I went to their website and discovered they were looking for someone with clinical experience to join their team.  I knew I was underqualified for the position, but decided to give it a go anyway- nothing to lose, right?  One of the founders replied to me within the hour of emailing my cover letter and resume and we set up an interview for the following week- score! I was excited but also very nervous.  I knew this interview would be unlike any other that I've experienced before.

Before the big day, I spent the prior week preparing.  I read up on the company, the legislation surrounding 30 day readmission and any tips that I could find when interviewing with a startup.  I'm glad I prepared as much as I did because I relied on that information for what became a 3 1/2 hour interview with 4 members of their leadership team- yikes!  By the end, I was absolutely exhausted.

Even though the experience was tiring, it was also exhilirating and I learned a lot about the startup world.  No, I wasn't offered the position but it was for the best.  For a number of reasons, it would not have been the right fit for me at this time in my life.  Although, I was glad to hear that it came down to me and another candidate.  In the end, they chose the other candidate because he/she had more project management experience.

If you're thinking about taking the plunge into the exciting world of healthcare startups or are preparing for an interview- I'll share some of the interview questions that stood out to me.

1.  Tell me what's important to know about you?
2.  Tell me about a time when you failed.
3.  Hypothetical:  Tell me how you would handle xyz situation?
4.  Do you consider yourself tech savy?
5.  What are your passions?
6.  What book are you currently reading?
7.  How would handle working in an unstructured environment?  (basically, how self-motivated are you?)
8.  What's your experience with analyzing data and drawing conclusions, etc.
9.  We're going to move quickly on this position- if you were offered the job, how quickly could you let us know if you'd accept it?

Those are just a few of the questions that stand out- believe me, there were a lot more!  

Have you ever worked for a healthcare startup? I'd love to hear about your experience. 

Reflections about NP school

Guys- tomorrow is my last day as a NP student at the University of Penn.  Tomorrow will be the last day I sit in this classroom.  I have no plans at this point to return for my PhD or DNP, but perhaps in 10 years I will have forgotten the pains of graduate school and I might take the plunge again.

As I reflect upon my own experiences in school there are a few things I would have done differently.

1.  Become involved in a grad student association.  GSO is the organization I should have joined when I began the program.  I decided early on that I didn't have the time for extras in my life because between school, work and family I was already juggling enough in my life.  Organizations such as this one can enhance the grad school experience.  There were definitely networking opportunities that I missed out on.

2.  Select a specialty early on and stick with it.  When I began my clinical rotations I did not have a preference aside from the fact that I wanted to work in the ICU setting.  My first rotation was in the Neuro ICU followed by a rotation in a Cardiothoracic ICU and my last clinical was in a general surgery practice- inpatient.  While my experiences were varied and I did learn a lot- I feel that my job search would be easier had I chosen a specialty and chosen my clinicals in that area only.  For example, had I chosen cardiology I could have worked in an inpatient/outpatient setting, a clinical in a cath lab and a rotation in a CCU (coronary care unit).  What I am finding is that even though I have worked for several years as an ICU nurse, many of the job openings in my area require experience within that particular specialty.  So, to make a long story short- my advice would be to select a specialty and stick with it throughout all of your clinical rotations.

3.  Connect with your classmates.  Luckily, as a result of this program, I feel that I now have new friends for life.  A group of us worked together very closely on projects and complimented each other very well.  We've shared our disappointments and celebrated our successes.  They have made school fun- good friends are essential.   

Do you all wish you would have done things differently while in NP school?

Last Day of Clinical

Hello friends.... I hope you're still out there because it's obvious I have not been as religious about updating this blog as I would have hoped.  Life just seems to get in the way sometimes and that has definitely been the case this summer. 

Great news- today is my last day of my clinical rotation as a NP student! Yay!  To say that I am excited would be an understatement- I'm elated!  

For the past 8 weeks I've been working with a NP who works for a group of general surgeons. She has been a wonderful role model and I hope to not forget the valuable lessons she has taught me.  I'd like to share them with you so that if you're also embarking upon a career as a NP perhaps you will find this information helpful in your own practice.

1.  Be thorough.  Be thorough in your assessments and in your documentation.  Do not rush through seeing a patient just because you want to finish rounds- take your time.  Review all of the necessary info: vital signs, lab work, progress notes, imaging studies, etc.  You'd think this would just be common sense but I've worked with providers who are careless in their clinical practice and just want to finish as soon as possible. 

2.  Spend time educating patients.  Patients appreciate it when you take the time to listen to them and educate them about their management plan.  Time and time again, patients thank my preceptor for her effort to explain things in a way that they can understand. 

3.  Play well with others.  Again, common sense here but we all know at least 1 or 2 providers who have a bad reputation because of the way they treat other people.  It is important to get to know your colleagues and to establish a good rapport.  Medicine is a team sport- not one provider can do it all alone.  We rely on each other in order to provide the best care possible to our patients. 

4.  Know your limitations.  As a NP, and especially as a new NP, there will be things I just don't know.  I know the learning curve will be steep.  It's important to know my limitations and to seek help when I'm unsure about something.  Just last week, one of the surgeons suggested to the NP that she place a catheter in a patient where a different surgeon on the same service operated.  She told him that she was not comfortable with that and felt it more appropriate for a surgeon to perform this procedure in the operating room.  Sure enough, a different surgeon agreed and took the patient to the operating room later that day for the procedure. 

My preceptor has taught me a lot and I am very grateful for her as a mentor.  I feel that I've learned a lot on this rotation about the role of a NP. 

As far as my own job is concerned, I'm still on the hunt.  For now, I'm just going to focus on finishing the program, studying for the board exam and enjoying the last few weeks of Summer. 

Univ of Penn Graduation

Over the break- you might be surprised to know that I graduated.  Well, not technically but I did attend the School of Nursing commencement ceremony and walked across the stage.  Most of my classmates participated in the ceremony which made for a very nice night.

These lovely ladies have become wonderful friends.  We've endured many projects, presentations and they've made it much easier to handle the stresses of the NP program.  Love these girls!

Laura Bush was the keynote speaker.  I thought her speech was inspirational.  She was genuine and her Texas drawl reminded me of my Texas upbringing- a bit of nostalgia.

Even though graduation was not the end of my graduate education, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Back from the break

Ahh-- sitting in class, once again.  The break from school and clinical absolutely flew by.  I was in denial that class began this week.  As I sit here listening to all of the projects and papers, etc. that will be due over the next couple of months I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed and yet still in denial. 

I have two weeks of class followed by eight weeks of clinical and then a final week of class and then the fun ends on August 8th!  Yay! 

My last clinical rotation will be both inpatient and outpatient with a large general surgery practice.  I'll be working with a NP who has been with this group for many years.  I am looking forward to working in an outpatient setting.  The only experience I have with the outpatient world are a few volunteer shifts at a charity clinic in Austin.  It will be a nice break from the hospital. 

I will try to do my best at keeping you updated on the NP student happenings during my last semester.  Also, if you would like to contribute to the blog and share anything as it relates to the NP world- just send me an email:  I would be absolutely thrilled to hear from you. 

Photo above from a trip to Longwood Gardens


I am thoroughly enjoying my break between semesters. I know the time will fly by so I'm trying to take advantage of every second. The kids and I are playing a lot every day, I'm cleaning out every closet in this house (exciting, right?) and I'm running Ragnar Cape Cod this weekend.  I've never run a Ragnar Relay but I'm excited about the adventure- running at all hours of the day and night, sleep deprivation, sharing a van with 6 people, no shower and porta potties for 200 miles, sure- sign me up!

Hope you all have an adventurous weekend!

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