RN Experience in Your NP Job Search: Does it Help?

It seem like RN experience should help or count for something in your nurse practitioner job search, right?! But, does this assumption play out in practice?

Nurse practitioners graduate with a similar level of NP education to one another but with very different prior healthcare backgrounds. Some NPs complete accelerated programs conferring both RN and NP degrees in just two short years. These applicants hunt for jobs without any healthcare job experience whatsoever. Other NPs work as nurses for 30 years before furthering their careers giving them a much different experiential framework on which to start their new position. But, how much does this experience actually help in your nurse practitioner job search? The answer is, it depends.

I’ve talked with hundreds of administrators and human resources team members at hospitals and clinics alike about their philosophies on hiring new graduate nurse practitioners. While their perspectives on hiring can vary significantly, I have noticed a few trends.

RN experience helps your NP job search when you’re sticking with the same employer. 

If you’re already employed as a nurse at a hospital where you want to work at as a NP, provided you’re a solid employee, this is a major benefit. Companies like to hire from within as they’re familiar with your reputation. The work you’ve done as a RN serves as a testament to how your future performance as a NP is likely to be. Not to mention, keeping the same employer means you’ll already understand how the company works and be familiar with internal systems and processes. So, if you’d like to keep the same employer, leverage the workplace connections you’ve made and highlight these benefits in the interview process.

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RN experience may help your NP job search if you’re sticking with a similar specialty. 

If you have RN experience in a similar specialty to the one where you’re looking for work as a nurse practitioner, some of your skills will translate giving your job search a boost. If you want to become an emergency or urgent care nurse practitioner and you’ve worked in the ER as a RN, this experience on your resume just may give you an edge over other applicants. Employers do vary based on just how much weight they award RN experience in the nurse practitioner hiring process.

RN experience may or may not help your NP job search if you’re working in a dissimilar specialty. 

As I mentioned above, the weight employers place on RN experience in their advanced practice hiring processes varies significantly. This is even more true when hiring for a position where your RN know-how doesn’t directly translate. For example, if you’ve worked as a PICU nurse for ten years and are transitioning to work as an occupational health NP, you’re using a totally different skill set. Sure, RN experience is a resume builder, but it may not give you the competitive edge you think it should in the hiring process.

I find that facilities consider RN experience based on their success with past hires. If previous hires who’ve worked at RNs have proven very successful in the practice, the employer seeks out others with a nursing background. If new grad NPs without RN experience have been successful, an employer may not care if you have RN experience or not. Finally, if an employer has made a bad hire with RN experience, they may even devalue your RN work. I’ve had employers tell me they prefer new grads without a healthcare background “because they don’t need to unlearn bad habits”. Overall, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to how much your work as a nurse will give you a competitive advantage in your nurse practitioner job search.

RN experience won’t help your nurse practitioner paycheck. 

I’m sorry to report that your nursing background probably won’t contribute much to your new grad NP salary. Most employers start their new grads at a similar, introductory pay scale. Even with RN experience, you’ll still have a lot to learn as a nurse practitioner. In some ways, comparing the two roles is like comparing apples to oranges. While your healthcare background will be helpful in your new role, it may not automatically translate to increased productivity and therefore higher pay. You’ll likely have to work your way up to secure an “experienced” level paycheck as a nurse practitioner.


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You Might Also Like: How to Get Hired by a Practice that Doesn’t Want New Grad NPs



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