The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Life as a Nurse Practitioner

I think it’s clear that I love my job. I have worked as a nurse practitioner for six short years and looking back wouldn’t change a single step I have taken on my career path. But, things aren’t always rosy in the life of an NP. As with every job, the nurse practitioner career presents some unique challenges at times. Yes, I think it’s fair to say that practicing as an NP is good, bad, and ugly.

The Good

The good of being an NP is all that you would expect. My job is simultaneously interesting and challenging. It pays well with a flexible work schedule. As a nurse practitioner I can work in any area of medicine I choose, even changing specialties mid-career should my interests shift. I enjoy just the right amount of autonomy in my practice, but have the option for more if I please. All this, without the time-consuming education of a physician. The good is the framework and foundation of my career, the thing that holds it up despite the occasional slips, shakes, and jolts.

The Bad

Overall, the good takes the cake in my profession. But, I won’t sit here and pretend I haven’t encountered a few bumps along my professional road. My first job was, well, terrible. I was cheated out of bonuses I was promised and worked without the support of colleagues I had been told to expect. This served as an important learning experience so I don’t look upon it with too much regret, but that 25K bonus I was looking forward to would have been nice.

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After graduating from my nurse practitioner program, my stress level was high. Here I was, a new grad NP, expected to fill nearly the entire role of a family practice physician. Impossible. It took asking a painstaking number of questions and ‘firsts’ to get my skills to where they are today. The ‘firsts’ were a rough road. There was my first time to suture a live human being, hands trembling with a thankfully understanding patient volunteering to be a practice subject. There was a first time to remove a mole, performing the procedure every so carefully so as to prevent leaving a scar. I hated these firsts. They were bad. But, like ripping off a band-aid, I knew I had to conquer them at some point.

…and the Ugly

I love to hate the ugly part of being a nurse practitioner. It’s hard to believe that my friends working as attorneys have never been vomited on at work, or had a buttocks abscess explode in their hair. I didn’t anticipate that, as a nurse practitioner student, one of my clinical rotations would involve handling live leeches. No one ever teaches you in school that some patients are known to come to the ER drunk on Listerine. The ugly aspects of life as an NP are what keep me on my toes. They are what makes us as nurses, doctors, NPs and PAs stand in a crowd together laughing so hard that energy drinks come out of our noses. The ugly is life uncensored. It is raw. It is real. I like the ugly, too.


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