4 Characteristics You Should You Look for In Your First Supervising Physician

I graduated from my nurse practitioner program three years ago.  I still vividly recall my first experiences as a new nurse practitioner graduate.  I was expected to do nearly the same job as the physician I worked with but with many years less schooling.  Welcome to on-the-job learning.  You will face many challenges as a new nurse practitioner graduate.  What should you look for in your first job to help you face and meet the demands of your new career most effectively?

The most important factor in your first job as an NP will be your supervising physician.  Yes, I know in many states you are qualified to work independently but I would highly recommend working with a physician or another very experienced NP for your first year or two out of school to become a more proficient nurse practitioner.  What characteristics should you look for in this individual?

1. Approachability

You are going to have multiple questions every day in your first experience as a nurse practitioner.  If your supervising physician is intimidating or unapproachable, you will have a difficult time.  You will be forced with the decision to not ask questions and potentially make a mistake or endure an uncomfortable conversation.  If you do not see your supervisor as approachable, it will significantly limit your learning and slow your progression as a nurse practitioner.

2. Well Balanced View of Medical Practice

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As much as we hate to admit it, medicine is a business.  Doctors and nurse practitioners are paid, as they deserve to be, for the services they provide.  Some healthcare providers lose sight of their mission to help others by providing medical care instead focusing solely on financial gain.  In my first job as a nurse practitioner, my supervising physician encouraged ordering tests patients may not need in order to make a larger profit.  This is bad medicine and a situation you must avoid.  Find a medical practice that prides themselves on the quality of care they provide rather than profits.  This may be difficult to discern initially.  Ask the other NP’s working for your potential employer to give you an idea of your prospective employer’s philosophies.

3. Organization

Many physicians and nurse practitioners own their own clinics.  However, some healthcare providers although excellent providers may be poor business managers of their clinics.  This leads to a stressful career.  Employee turnover in these clinics is high, processes are not streamlined leading to inefficiency and disorganization.  If your clinic is poorly managed, it will hinder your learning as a new nurse practitioner.  One caveat: clinics with high employee turnover are hiring more frequently.  If you cannot find another job as an NP, you may consider working in this type of environment to gain some experience if it is the only available position you can find.

4. Understanding

Working for a physician or nurse practitioner who has hired other new NP grads will be beneficial.  You will have a lot to learn initially and if your supervising provider expects this, your relationship will go more smoothly.  If your prospective employer has not recently hired a new grad, express to them that you will have many questions as you continue to improve your level of proficiency but are eager to learn and will work hard to improve quickly.  This way, you manage your employer’s expectations and they will recognize your deficits as a new grad but be confident you will continue to improve.

Are you a new NP grad?  Feel free to contact me with any questions about finding your first job or what might be a good fit for you.  Are you currently working as an NP?  We would love to hear your advice on what to look for in a first job.

7 thoughts on “4 Characteristics You Should You Look for In Your First Supervising Physician”

  1. Hi Sue,

    A ‘supervising’ or ‘collaborating’ physician is required to practice as a nurse practitioner in many states as mandated by state law.  Depending on state laws, this physician is required to sign nurse practitioner’s charts or review a certain number of cases the nurse practitioner sees.  In Washington State, nurse practitioners are allowed to practice independently so physician oversight is not necessary to practice.  

  2. I need help! I am a new NP and the first WHNP in a 8 physician practice who work on productivity. They are not approachable and have not invested in the idea of a NP. I need protocols and ideas of how to be successful !

  3. Hi Lesley,

    I would meet with your supervisor to discuss this.  Let them know you want to be a valuable asset to their practice but have a bit to learn first.  Ultimately, even though they are paid on productivity, it will be beneficial for them to help you out up front.  This way you can help them become more efficient.  I completely understand your frustration.  If they aren’t supportive and can’t offer you the on the job training you need, it may be time to look elsewhere.

  4. Hi Amy,

    Good question. Most medical clinics expect similar performance from new grads and experienced NPs, or at least expect them to get to a full patient load within a few months. Based on my experience, primary care and most other outpatient clinics schedule 4 patients/ hour. Physicals and initial patient visits may be given a 30 minute rather than a 15 minute time slot. 

    Hope this helps!

  5. As an FNP with 7 years experience & a nursing background of 40 years, I have a question about the law requiring a collaborating physician to be within 50 miles of where you are, as an FNP, & practicing even if you do not order any testing or medication for patients who come to you for a history & physical exam for disability determinations within your state. The only job you are providing is that of a history & physical exam for possible state disability or social security benefits. Can the FNP have an out of state collaborating physician or one who is farther away than 50 miles to do Missouri state disability determinations whose reports go to the state’s disability office for approval???
    Orders are not placed on any patients seen. Reports are filled out & sent in for dr approval, then sent to the DDS offices. Is this legal for the FNP to practice in Missouri this way?!
    Thank you,

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