I recently spoke with a nurse practitioner faculty member at a well respected university. This particular faculty member was quite friendly and we began discussing her background. She had worked as a nurse practitioner in community health for a number of years. Eventually, she decided to branch out in her career by adding a teaching component to her resume. Throughout her years of teaching, she made an interesting observation.

“Too many nurse practitioners out there are looking for ‘glam’ jobs”, she lamented. Rather than stay true to the roots of the NP profession which was founded in the public health sector (here’s how it all began), she notices that nurses are advancing their education solely for the purpose of higher pay, better schedules, and an easier job. No more dealing with C. diff and Foley catheters, nurses are trading in their work on the hospital floor in hopes of employment in suburban walk-in clinics and dermatology practices – or at least with ‘easy’ patient populations.

While this particular professor certainly sees some new nurse practitioners with a heart for preventative healthcare and helping underserved populations, she has seen an attitude shift in recent years among the nurse practitioner population.

I was intrigued by what this NP faculty member had to say. In some ways, I have noticed a similar trend. Among my nurse practitioner program classmates, many of us started our careers in the primary care setting, in many cases in communities without sufficient access to healthcare. Over the years, we have specialized, moving to cardiology, dermatology, ENT, and allergy practices. Few have remained in public health and community health settings.

On one hand, you could say we moved on from our roots, attracted to higher salaries in specialty medicine. On the other hand, you might say that we moved on as a result of having identified a more specific clinical interest. Our primary care foundation allowed us to identify our passion.

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As specialty nurse practitioners, we continue to see patients from all walks of life, but with a specific subset of medical problems. In the emergency department, for example, I treat homeless patients, uninsured patients, and patients seeking help related to limited access to care in the outpatient setting. Sure, my paycheck is more substantial in the ER than during my time working in a walk-in clinic for Medicaid patients. However, I wouldn’t describe working overnight shifts and draining abscesses glamorous at all.

I talk with many nurses who aspire to become nurse practitioners. Most cite a balance of personal and altruistic motives for furthering their careers. And, I think that’s OK. Returning to school to become a nurse practitioner is a costly, time consuming endeavor. So, there should be some personal benefits as a result of the transition. Aspiring nurse practitioners I talk with also seek more autonomy in their careers. They are attracted to the idea of making decisions for patients on a greater scale, rather than sticking primarily to following orders. With a greater degree of autonomy and decision making power naturally comes more ‘glam’, as less desirable tasks are delegated to others.

Yes, there are some nurse practitioners out there who work in practices catering to financially privileged patients. These patients however, deserve care similarly to the rest of our country. So, we need some NPs working in these types of practices. In contrast, there are also a number of nurse practitioners working in rural and remote health settings, caring for patients who might not otherwise have access to care. There are NPs who work in homeless clinics, and nurse practitioners employed in community health practices across our country. Yet other nurse practitioners work in practices serving patients that fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. We need NPs with interest in each of these patient populations to maintain such a balance.

Based on my observations, I somewhat agree with this faculty member’s sentiments about ‘glam’ jobs. However, I believe that looking for your job to give you more is a natural consequence of taking the time and energy to advance one’s education. Overall, I have also seen that our nurse practitioner population is pretty diverse, with a wide variety of NPs working in a wide variety of settings, a testament to the importance and flexibility of our profession.

Do you think too many nurse practitioners are looking for ‘glam’ jobs?


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10 thoughts on “Are Too Many Nurse Practitioners Looking for ‘Glam’ Jobs?”

  1. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be adequately compensated and have a good work/ life balance. That isn’t glamour….that’s trying to be healthy.

    So often nurses are so tough on fellow nurses. I am a primary care provider and love my job… but I am so excited to see fellow nurse practitioners representing through out the healthcare continuum .

  2. I recently left primary care for emergency medicine. I did not do it because it was a “glam job” but rather it gives me more time with my family that the demands of primary care could not.

  3. I am a new grad and cannot get employment without at least 1-3 years of experience in what I was trained to do. As a RN I had years of specialized experience and that is what the area employers wanted. I really hoped to work in a center caring for the underserved or if not that then at least in a family practice setting, not in my area. Disappointing but after 1-3 years I may be able to do so. Instead I have decided to get settled in a new job and volunteer in a free clinic in the role I wanted to do full time.

  4. Everyone has personal interests as to go up in their career and that is the motivating factor for continuing education. That should not be viewed as a negative quality. In fact, nurses should be proud of the fellow nurses who achive more.

  5. After 16 years of critical care, I did choose to advance my education for “easier” work. Back and hip injuries made patient care hard. I had to make a decision to stay in healthcare or changes fields completely. I couldn’t retire as a staff nurse. In the description of her decision to add teaching to her resume, why is this any better than looking for a position to have better hours, pay, and physical work load? Too many instructors enter the field for the hours or padding a resume not because they are good teachers and want to help the future generations of nurses. Ever heard- those who can’t do teach?!? As an instructor, take the time to change the mentality and promote the roots of nurse practitioners, not judge.

  6. I actually find the faculty member’s observation somewhat offensive. Just as there are physicians that choose to work in derm or have concierge practices, there are NPs who will identify a clinical interest in a field that tends to cater to a more financially privileged population, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m graduating in May and having my first child the same month, and I hope to find a 9-5 M-F job with minimal weekend/holiday coverage. I’d LOVE a job doing well-woman exams at an OB-GYN office. It’s not because I don’t think patients deserve care 24/7, it’s because I want to be able to give as much of myself to my family as I have been giving to my work all these years. Work/life balance is a key to happiness for most, and for me personally it justifies the $50,000 debt I’ll be paying back in school loans I took to achieve it.

  7. I view this faculty members comments as a form of perpetuating lateral violence. Nurses berating nurses. When will this end? NPs are as diverse as our population and have the right to choose whichever area of medicine that interests them for their career path. Who made the rule that becoming a nurse meant backbreaking work and uncivilized working conditions makes you a hero…and carrying that into your NP career makes you somehow ‘ethical’? Stop the madness and start supporting each other. I speak with many new RNs who find lateral violence alive and well. As NPs we should be dispelling this through supportive words and actions.

  8. I think it’s hard for someone who went through a direct program to relate to being an RN for many years and transitioning to FNP. We do work very hard and changing to a less physically-demanding job doesn’t make us abandoning the roots of NP’s it means we want to grow as nurses.

  9. I think that altruism is great and all but I have to agree with the other posters that what this faculty member said is offensive. Why are NPs the only ones who are expected to work with underserved populations? I work in an ED that serves a lot of low-income folks who have limited access to primary care. I love the work that I do, but I hardly consider it a glam job. I don’t mind volunteering for a free clinic but I think that working a specialty I’m interested in and wanting to be fairly compensated for my time, education, and training isn’t unreasonable either.

  10. Sadly, the way she measures others is likely the way she measures herself as we’re all projecting what we feel about ourselves onto others to make us feel good or justified. I hope she finds peace.

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