A lot of new nurse practitioners are frustrated. The learning curve associated with being a new grad is steep. They hear about NP positions offering well into the six-figure salary range but can’t seem to land these opportunities. Many clinics willing to hire recent NP graduates are poorly managed leading to daily job frustration. Well, I am here to tell you there is a light at the end of the ‘new grad’ tunnel. How and when will you find your sweet spot, your ideal NP career opportunity? Let me tell you my story.
My first job as a nurse practitioner was terrible. Essentially, the goal of my supervising physician was for nurse practitioners to bill as much as possible so he could work on things like installing a swimming pool in his backyard. We treated mainly Medicaid patients. To make up for Medicaid’s poor compensation rates, he pushed us to see as many patients as we could as quickly as possible. Talk about burnout. I stuck it out for a year. Then, when I quit he threatened to sue me and refused to pay me my bonus (the lesson here- always quit after your bonus is paid out). Yeah, my first supervising physician was a real winner.
But, I persisted with the nurse practitioner profession. I began applying to emergency department positions; that was, after all my dream job. I encountered only rejection. “Sorry”, physicians would say, “you seem smart, your references are outstanding, but we really need someone with more experience”. My father is an emergency room physician so I floated the idea of working at his hospital past him one day. No way. He informed me that his NP’s and PA’s average 10 years of experience and some have even worked in the military providing emergency care to troops. “Great” I thought, “my measly year of practice and I have no chance”. A poorly managed urgent care clinic hired me.
I worked in urgent care for a year. Despite my longing for the excitement of the ER, I enjoyed urgent care and it proved to be an essential stepping stone in my career. My supervising physicians were excellent providers, easy to get along with and good teachers. I became more proficient in procedures like suturing lacerations and I&D’s. But, then I began to get bored. I was comfortable with my urgent care skills and yearning for new challenges. The clinic was poorly managed and workplace politics were beginning to irk me. I was hired to work in a clinic location just over a mile from my house. Then, six months into my employment I was transferred to a clinic 40 miles away as the company was unable to find a qualified local NP. When the clinic manager decided to implement a points program in lieu of giving employees a raise, I made a beeline for the door. 5 points for showing up on time every day and the chance to win a free water bottle was not going to make up for the fact that I wasn’t being paid quite the going NP hourly rate.
Now, it was finally my turn for success. I still drempt of working in the emergency department. Through connections I had made at my previous job, I contacted the emergency department director at the hospital where I currently work, scheduled and interview and was hired! Wahoo! Finally! My dream NP position. Yes, I knew I would be working nights, weekends and holidays but in exchange for a six figure salary and an interesting, challenging career it was worth the sacrifice. Two years later, I remain thrilled with my ultimate destination.
If you are a new grad, when will your dream nurse practitioner opportunity find you? In my experience both personally and in observing my nurse practitioner classmates, two to four years of experience working as a nurse practitioner will likely lead you to your dream job. You need to get some clinical experience under your belt. Once you put in a little grunt work, become more proficient in your medical skills and knowledge, you will be much more marketable. You can present yourself to prospective employers as independent and knowledgeable. As you gain experience, you will make professional connections broadening your network and helping you to find your ideal NP opportunity when it becomes available. You will be more aware of the salary and benefits you should earn in your specific field of interest and your experience will give you the leverage you need to negotiate a favorable contract.
Will these fist two to four years as an NP be easy? No. They will stretch your brains and your patience. You will work hard and likely for a little below the average 90k NP salary. Will it be worth it? Yes. So, keep on trucking new grads. Pour your energy into learning and rise up to the challenges of life as a nurse practitioner, your ideal job awaits…in a few years.