Yesterday, I spent my afternoon dreading work. It wasn’t really the work that had me feeling down, but more the thought of staying up all night, the impending sleep deprivation and the feeling of missing out on some quality lazy-weekend time with my friends and family. Upon my arrival in the emergency department, I immediately stepped into my role soon forgetting the soup-eating and rainy evening TV watching I was missing.

Overall, my evening went without a major hitch. The night was busy but not too busy making for a pretty decent shift. As any night-shifter knows, too much downtime leads to drowsiness. Too much chaos, well, we work the night shift specifically to avoid chaos. It goes without saying that the perfect nurse practitioner job doesn’t exist. But, just how imperfect should you expect your nurse practitioner job to be? Where should you settle and where should you refuse to compromise?

I talk with a lot of healthcare providers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians alike. There are several themes I notice around job satisfaction.

Employer Expectations

The number one reason I see nurse practitioners become dissatisfied with their jobs is a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of an employer’s expectations. During the interview process for a position, employers naturally play up the positives of the workplace and the job itself. The position seems attractive, and the NP is sold. Then, reality sets in, and the positives of the job paired with the downsides don’t make for quite as attractive a role as the nurse practitioner expected.

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A practice, for example, may market itself as a place that cares deeply for its patients, and values health and wellness promotion. In reality, this is balanced with pressures for the nurse practitioner to generate revenue, and visit times may be shorter than the NP feels is adequate to accomplish this mission.

Broken Promises

In a similar vein, promises may be made during the job interview process that are simply broken once the nurse practitioner starts working. Bonuses may not be achieved nearly as often as the employer made it seem possible. Perhaps the nurse practitioner is asked to work in a different practice location than was initially discussed. Changes to terms and conditions of employment naturally lead nurse practitioners to become dissatisfied and frustrated with an employer.

Bureaucracy and Red Tape

Healthcare is rife with red tape and bureaucracy. Few practices are immune. Dealing with government regulations, demands of administration, and paperwork can seriously dampen the patient care experience. Understandably, nurse practitioners become frustrated with these issues in healthcare, casting a shadow on their jobs.

The Grass is Greener Elsewhere

FOMO is real. While you may be overall satisfied with your job as a nurse practitioner, you wonder if there’s something better. Another employer may pay a higher salary. Another facility may offer a better schedule. Perhaps the day-to-day stress level of working for another employer would be lower. Some nurse practitioners cause themselves to become dissatisfied with their positions, not as a result of the job itself, but as a result of wondering if there’s a more ideal position elsewhere.

So, when should you decide to stick with your current NP job, recognizing that employment’s not perfect, and when should you move on? If your employer has misrepresented your position or broken promises made during the interview process, leaving may be justified and necessary. If you are experiencing job dissatisfaction as a result of dealing with the inner workings of the healthcare system, it’s unlikely that things will change working elsewhere.

Whatever you decide to do if you’re unhappy in your current position, carefully evaluate your next steps. Every job has its downsides. Are you trading in something that’s not so bad for something worse? Will your job satisfaction really increase by switching employers? You don’t want to be considered a job hopper, so thoughtfully consider each and every career transition.


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