Drowning? How I Navigated the First Years of NP Practice

My first year as a nurse practitioner was basically the worst. Other NPs and PAs share similar stories with me. As a new nurse practitioner I was unsure of my clinical decision making. My lack of confidence and constant need to look everything up made it difficult to meet productivity demands of my employer. This left me totally overwhelmed mentally and emotionally. Not to mention, I was burnt out. I took work home with me finding myself completing patient charts in evening and weekend hours when what I really needed was a mental break. 

Do you find yourself similarly drowning as a new NP? You’ve heard promising stories from experienced providers about working as a nurse practitioner. “The profession has momentum”, “NPs are in demand”, “It must be so great to help others”, people say when you talk about your career trajectory. But, then, you’re left alone to see your own patients. Employers aren’t the understanding guides that preceptors were. They need to make a profit and rely on you to be the driving force behind the financial success of the practice. You’re pressured meet certain demands that seem impossible given your inexperience. 

The mental and emotional stress of life as a new nurse practitioner will take a toll on you. It will probably be worse than you expect. It will tempt you to quit. It will make you want to leave your job and even question your career decision. But, as an NP ten years into my career I’m here to tell you to persevere. Learn as much as you can. Embrace the long hours and the pressure from employers. Take the initiative to grow from uncomfortable or uncertain situations. Ask questions even when you sense others are tired of giving you answers. It’s only with these qualities that you’ll start to see the light. To be successful in our profession, you’ve got to be a go-getter. Your schooling will develop your clinical foundation. But, to thrive you absolutely must continue to grow clinically and professionally on your own. The curriculum? Your on the job experiences. 

Remind yourself that your first years of practice will be trying. They are for everyone. But, if you tackle the challenge you’ll come out ahead on the other side. One day you will wake up and realize that the thought of heading in to work isn’t about to give you an anxiety attack. You carry yourself just a bit taller and have become more confident. You no longer feel like you’re totally drowning (maybe doggie paddling). 

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Enduring your first years of practice with a proactive, can-do attitude is a must. It’s the only way you’ll survive. The result will be that you’re more competitive in the job market in a few short years. You will command a higher salary as one who’s proven him or herself as a confident, competent nurse practitioner. The struggle to keep your head above water doesn’t end on graduation day. But, rest assured that if you persist, if you work hard, your initial career efforts will pay off. Hang in there new grads. You can do it!


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1 thought on “Drowning? How I Navigated the First Years of NP Practice”

  1. Mulikat Babatunde-Layeni

    This is very encouraging for new NP like me still study for board and thinking of future employment as new grad NP

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