Reentering the Nurse Practitioner Workforce in 8 Not-So-Easy Steps

I often talk to nurse practitioners who have taken a few years off from their NP careers. Most commonly, family priorities are the reason for the break from the workforce. Other times, a lengthy job search turned stagnant and led to a continuation of one’s RN career. Whatever your reason for taking five from life as a nurse practitioner, it’s not too late to reenter the NP workforce. Before you do so, careful planning is in order. These six steps should help.

1. Think through your decision

As one who commonly jumps headfirst into projects, I understand the temptation to start applying for jobs in uninhibited fashion once you again decide to pursue your NP career. Resist. Taking a step back to think about what your decision really means is a must. Ask yourself questions like “How much do I want to work?” and “How much can I practically work?”. Think about the kind of schedule you will need to accommodate your other commitments. Neglecting to analyze your needs before launching your NP life 2.0 could land you in a less than ideal situation

2. Look at licensing logistics

As nurse practitioners, we have a highly specialized skill set. Unfortunately, our skills grow rusty over time as do our certifications and licenses to practice. Check out the requirements for working as a nurse practitioner in your state. Are your required certifications and licenses up to date? If not, what will it take to renew them? In some cases, reentering practice can take a lot of work (here’s how to recertify as an NP) and may even mean repeating the national nurse practitioner certification exam.

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3. Assess your skill set

Even if your nurse practitioner licenses and certifications are up to date, you may not be quite ready to jump back in to practice if you’ve taken a few years off. Assess your skill set before putting yourself on the job market. Are there any areas where you are weak clinically? What additional training do you need to overcome these weak spots? Attending skills sessions or continuing medical education conferences, or job shadowing another provider in your specialty will be helpful in getting you up to speed. You may even consider applying to post-graduate programs, such as ThriveAP’s ThriveAP+ (sorry, I couldn’t resist the mention!)

4. Examine your options

As you prepare yourself legally and clinically to return to practice, do some research into the career options for NPs where you live. How is the job market? What is the average salary in the area? Which specialties and settings seem most likely to fit your practice area and desired schedule? Are there any employers that seem particularly attractive? Background research is key in executing a well organized, effective job search.

5. Prepare for your job search

Now that your paperwork is in order, you’re almost ready to return to the nurse practitioner workforce. Freshen up your resume and dust off your interview skills to get things started. Confidence is key in job interviews. So, practice, practice, practice. You can assume you will be asked about your temporary pause from working as an NP, so rehearse your reply. Keep your answer brief, straightforward, and honest. Remember, taking a gap year or two isn’t necessarily a negative. Your interviewer will understand provided your reason it legit (kids are legit, incarceration not so much).

6. Spread the word

As you start to apply for jobs online, spread the word about your reentry into the nurse practitioner workforce in person as well. Inform friends, family, and former coworkers about your new endeavor so they can be on the lookout for jobs that might be right for you. Join professional organizations to network within the healthcare community. Update your LinkedIn profile with your new career status to attract prospective employers. Expanding your reach maximizes your chances of finding the job that’s right for you.

7. Hang in there

In some areas, job searches for nurse practitioners can be lengthy, Or, you may experience delay in starting your new position as a result of credentialing paperwork and licensure hang ups. Use this time to continue dusting off your clinical know how, and cherish the downtime you do have before returning to the 9-5. 

8. Prepare for a learning curve

Starting a new job is challenging, even if you have not taken time off from clinical practice. Prepare to work hard and encounter daily struggles as you start your new position. These challenges will be temporary and weathering the learning curve of reentering the nurse practitioner workforce will be well worth the effort.

Do you plan to reenter the nurse practitioner workforce? What is your plan for doing so?


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1 thought on “Reentering the Nurse Practitioner Workforce in 8 Not-So-Easy Steps”

  1. I am seeking reentry to practice and am doing many of the things you already mentioned. I have kept up to date with licenses. I have taken a couple classes over to keep ideas sharp such as assessment and a pharm class. I am studying for the National Exam. Once I pass it, I will seek a internship to get my skills back to speed and will use the university independent study option to arrange my experiences.

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