Having worked in primary care, the emergency department, and retail health, I have varied clinical experience as a family use practitioner. One area my career has yet to give me a glimpse into is that of psychiatry. Psychiatric nurse practitioners are in high demand, and have a wide variety of option when it comes to their careers. To get a better idea of what the education and career path looks like for psychiatric NPs, I decided to go straight to the source.
Last week, I had a chance to talk with Emily Rabinowitz, a psychiatric nurse practitioner working in the outpatient setting in California. As I talked with Emily, I could immediately sense her passion for her career. And when I say passion, I mean passion. Emily could hardly contain herself. Her excitement was infectious and I couldn’t wait to hear more. Here’s a sneak peak into Emily’s journey to becoming a psych NP.
How did you decide to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner?
“In college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved people” Emily says. The university she attended had a nursing school, so, given her love for people Emily thought nursing would be a good fit. Except it wasn’t. Emily hated nursing school and felt like she couldn’t find her niche. As she gained exposure to med-surg, OB, and other areas in the hospital during her clinical rotations, she grew increasingly discouraged. Then, in Emily’s last rotation of her nursing program, she discovered psych – and she loved it!
Post graduation, Emily accepted a job in an inpatient psychiatric unit. After working in inpatient psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Center for a year, Emily began to feel a bit burnt out. Overnight, weekend, and holiday shifts were demanding and didn’t lend themselves to the work-life balance she sought. Coworkers encouraged her to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner.
What was your experience like in your nurse practitioner program?
Emily enrolled in the University of Maryland’s psychiatric nurse practitioner program and loved every moment. Attending school part-time and working as a nurse proved challenging. So, Emily took a unique approach. “I don’t think many people think to do this” Emily says, but I taught clinicals to nursing students while I was in NP school”. With more traditional hours and higher pay, teaching proved to be the perfect way to earn a living as she worked on her degree.
How did you find your first job as a psych NP?
“When I graduated from my NP program, I couldn’t wait to start working!” Emily says. She and her fiancé were in the mood for an adventure so they packed their bags and headed across the country to California. There, Emily accepted a travel nursing position to bide time while she studied for certification and worked on her job search.
Like many NP students, Emily kicked off her job search 3 to 4 months before she anticipated taking her boards. Frustratingly, employers weren’t interested in hiring an NP so far in advance. Once Emily did receive her certification, she reached out again to clinics she had contacted previously. One clinic still had an opening, which she accepted.
What does the day to day of your job look like?
“I work primarily in an outpatient psychiatric clinic, but the clinic also has an affiliated crisis center” Emily says. The crisis center is not an an emergency department or inpatient unit, but rather an outpatient setting where patients come if they are suicidal, out of meds, or are otherwise in need of a psychiatric evaluation. The center is the only one of its kind in San Francisco. Emily works one day each week in the crisis center and four days a week in the clinic. At the crisis center she works alongside a team of nurse practitioners and physicians while in the clinic she works with just one other NP.
In the clinic, Emily sees about 7 or 8 patients per day. She feels fortunate that the clinic schedules 90 minute visits for new patients, and 45 minute visits for established patients giving her plenty of time for patient encounters. She describes the clinic as a “friendly and open atmosphere” with other providers always available to consult.
In what direction do you see your career moving in the future?
While Emily enjoyed her first psych NP position and has had valuable learning experiences, she is craving something more. So, she is in the process of transitioning to an exciting, new opportunity. In her new position, Emily will have the opportunity to complement her outpatient practice with research and medication trials.
Want to hear more about Emily’s journey as a psychiatric nurse practitioner? Check out her advice for new grad NPs.