I tend to focus on the positives of my job working as an nurse practitioner. But, there are definitely some downsides (gasp!). In a patient facing role, for example, you’ve got to be present to get the job done. There’s not much opportunity to work remotely, squeezing in a few hours of work on the plane on the way to a summer getaway, like some of my non-healthcare friends. Strategizing about the best way to use your vacation time can be soul-sucking. Once you’ve delegated a few days to see family, and a few to attend an obligatory wedding or two, there aren’t many left for just plain fun. So, what’s an NP to do when they’re feeling the crunch of too little vacation time?
I’ve got a few tried and true tricks up my sleeve for finagling a bit of extra time off.
1. Plan a ‘preexisting’ vacation when accepting a new job
If you’re accepting a nurse practitioner job offer, you can probably work out a pretty sweet deal as far as vacation time (or, maybe a CE allowance, too)- for your first year with the employer, at least. There are three ways to go about this.
a. Negotiate more vacation time as part of your contract. If your employer is resistant to agree to more paid time off, suggest a week or two of unpaid time. After all, freedom is priceless!
b. Not only should you negotiate for additional vacation time as part of your contract, I also suggest taking a week or two off between jobs and planning a getaway. The luxury of time of will be well work sacrificing a little income.
c. Finally, you can also let a prospective employer know of any upcoming travel plans and ask that you be able to take the vacation without counting the days against you. Say something along the lines of “I want to accept the position. I do have a one week vacation planned on [date]. Would it be possible to take this time off unpaid without counting this against my vacation time for the year?”. Boom. You’ve worked in a getaway (paid or unpaid depending on your ask) without eating into your two-week allotment. Requesting that an employer honor a pre-planned trip is a relatively small ask in the context of accepting a new position.
2. Tap into the PRN pool
The culture of your workplace may be one in which time off is strictly monitored. But, there’s no harm in suggesting an innovative plan that allows you to hit the beach, right?! Chances are that your employer maintains contact with a few former NPs or PAs that are still credentialed with the facility. Reach out to PRN providers or former providers that are still eligible to practice. Would they be willing to cover your shifts while you’re out? If you find your own coverage for time away, an employer is more likely to allow you to take some extra unpaid days off.
3. Plan strategically
If you’ve got a ‘can do’ attitude, there’s a lot you can do to maximize the vacation time you do have. Look at the calendar and intentionally plan a stategy for packing in the most vacation time possible. Pair trips with federal holidays when you’re already off work. Consider departing for a trip after work and driving late night so you maximize your days off by enjoying your destination rather than traveling. You’d be surprised how much more time you can eek out of your schedule by being a ‘yes’ rather than a ‘no’ person.
4. Forgo compensation
You’ve probably noticed a theme throughout this post – unpaid days. Negotiating for more paid time off is a bigger ask than taking extra unpaid time. Asking for more paid time off is best done in the context of a quarterly or annual review, especially in one where your compensation package is under review. Requesting two days off without pay because an opportunity has arisen, however, doesn’t require as much scrutiny on part of your employer. So, if the freedom to enjoy a few days of surf, sand and sun is what you’re looking for, asking for unpaid time will yield the quickest ‘yes’.
5. Make up for it
While not all employers are flexible when it comes to scheduling, some have a more progressive view. If you want to get away, consider asking if you can pull a few 12-hour shifts at the beginning of the week, taking a Thursday and Friday off to accommodate an upcoming vacation. Some employers are open to flexibility as to when you get your job done as long as you do get the job done. This can even be advantageous in that it might give your practice the opportunity to schedule patients in evening hours to name one benefit.
6. Just ask
Is there something pressing on your summer agenda? Do you work for a practice that’s resistant to other tactics for finagling extra vacation time? If so, a straightforward ask may be your best bet. Life happens and bosses understand (sometimes). If you’re getting married and want a few extra days off to take a honeymoon, have a family member returning home from military duty, or a host of other personal circumstances, consider asking for a little extra time off to enjoy these precious moments. Your boss just might do you a solid.
How have you found more vacation time in your scheudle?
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