Firsthand Advice for New Grad Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Last week, I had the chance to talk with Emily, a psychiatric nurse practitioner practicing in San Francisco, about her journey to becoming a psych NP. Emily’s enthusiasm for her new career was infectious as she shared the steps she took to landing her first job. I also had the chance to ask Emily about her first days on the job as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Overcoming new grad status is tough. And, I love, love, loved the advice Emily had for new grads regardless of specialty. Here’s a quick look at our conversation. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced as a new grad nurse practitioner?

“I was very worried that I wouldn’t know which medications to prescribe for my patients”, Emily says, “but it wasn’t as scary as I imagined”. “There’s an algorithm for everything, so you’re really just following evidence based protocol”, she explains. Emily also notes that many of her patients have chronic psychiatric illnesses and have been under psychiatric care for a long period of time. So, she’s not “reinventing the wheel” and developing new medication regimens for all of her patients. 

What steps are you taking to overcome the new grad NP learning curve?

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“The University of Maryland did a very good job of preparing me” says Emily. She was fortunate to have very good clinical preceptors throughout her program, in particular, one nurse practitioner who allowed her to be very independent. “This was very helpful” she says, “I felt like I was already practicing by myself for a period of time before graduation” Emily explains. 

Emily attributes her success at tacking the new grad learning curve to actions she took before graduation. “You get in what you put out!” she exclaims. While it wasn’t always easy, Emily pushed herself during her clinicals to jump in and start doing as much as possible to become autonomous. Not all of her classmates did the same, and as a result, she feels she is more comfortable in her initial months working as an NP. 

What advice do you have for new grad psychiatric nurse practitioners?

“Don’t be scared, don’t be shy” Emily advises nurse practitioner students and new grads, “Be outgoing as a student and push to work more independently in school. “Be your own advocate” Emily advises, “You are the only one who is going to help you”. Taking steps to push herself in the more supported clinical environment as part of her psychiatric NP program allowed Emily to overcome her new grad status more quickly

Although Emily feels like her career is off to an exciting start, she still doesn’t have all the answers. “It’s OK to say you don’t know” Emily assures fellow new grad NPs. “I think patients appreciate the honesty” she says. Additionally, Emily recommends documenting after each patient encounter. This way, important information about the visit is not forgotten and you don’t get behind throughout the day. 

Is there anything else you think future psychiatric nurse practitioners should know?

“Definitely work as a psychiatric nurse first”, Emily says. Working in psych, you have to have thick skin. Having experience as a psych nurse will make you more confident once you are an NP. 

We wish Emily luck as she moves on to her second job as a nurse practitioner, now with some real-life experience under her belt. As a go-getter, Emily’s has sought out a new position which will expand on the skills she gained in the community health setting, exposing her to new research and innovative practice methods. Having spent some time as new grad NPs ourselves here at ThriveAP, we agree wholeheartedly with Emily’s advice. A big “thank you!” to Emily for sharing her experience with us. 


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