A few weeks ago, my husband and I joined a group of close friends for dinner. This particular group of 8 couples meets monthly to catch up over a home-cooked meal in one member of our Supper Club’s home. Our friends who recently hosted mentioned that each night as a family they go around the dinner table each sharing a ‘high’ and ‘low’ for the day. They suggested we do the same at our meal. The exercise was engaging and at times just plain hilarious. It also got me thinking about my personal highs and lows in life.
I’ve certainly had my share of highs and lows in my life as a nurse practitioner. Nearly eight years in to my career, I’ve overcome intermittent struggles and had many successes. Overcoming lack of experience as a new nurse practitioner has been, overall, the most significant hurdle I’ve overcome as a nurse practitioner. Mistakenly, once I became more comfortable in my practice, I assumed that career challenges were over and it would be smooth sailing ahead. But, as I should have expected, I encountered a few bumps in the road. Here are the things I enjoy most and least about my NP career.
High: Career Path Flexibility
My first year as a nurse practitioner I worked in family practice. Quickly, I realized this was not the setting for me. Thankfully, the flexibility of my NP degree allowed me to move on to urgent care and ultimately to the emergency department. Not only have I enjoyed the ability to transition from specialty to specialty with ease, I also appreciate the variety of scheduling options available to nurse practitioners. At times, I have worked more than full-time, at others part-time, and have even held a few PRN positions here and there. The options available to me as an NP accommodate life’s different stages while allowing me to maintain consistent employment.
Low: Grueling Schedules
While I have enjoyed flexibility in the setting where I practice and the logistics of my employment arrangement, working as a nurse practitioner can still be downright exhausting. Unlike my friends and family members who work in the business world and may have the option to work from home, in a patient-facing role this isn’t possible for me. Furthermore, the requirement to work evenings, nights, weekends and holidays cuts in to time with family and friends often leaving me feeling like I’m missing out.
High: Room for Improvement
I’m not the kind of person who thrives on the status quo. I like to mix things up every once in a while and actually enjoy a bit of adversity. Life as a nurse practitioner keeps up with my need for intellectual stimulation. In medicine, there’s always something new to learn, clinical developments to keep up with and opportunity to improve. The sky’s the limit when it comes to improving my clinical knowledge and skills.
Low: The New Grad Learning Curve
As I mentioned earlier, life as a new grad nurse practitioner was rough. I asked an endless stream of questions to my coworkers and often felt clinically unprepared for my role. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a failure and as a new grad NP I felt like my job performance deserved an ‘F’. Eventually, I overcame this struggle but it took months and much longer than I anticipated.
High: Busy Days
I can’t say that I enjoy my shifts in the emergency department that could be described as just plain overwhelming, but I do appreciate the fast pace that working as a nurse practitioner requires. I’m on my feet much of the day and constantly busy. The work day goes quickly and keeps me engaged. I wouldn’t trade this for a desk job.
Low: Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
I’m sure most other nurse practitioners can relate to my sentiments about charting and paperwork. It seems the administrative responsibilities of working as a nurse practitioner often overshadow the clinical. From patient charts to workers compensation forms and prescription preauthorizations, the paperwork associated with the NP life is definitely a downside of my job.
High: My Coworkers
Working in the emergency department, I’m accompanied by some pretty awesome folks. I rarely spend time with my coworkers socially, but I enjoy their company on the job. It seems that the medical field attracts can-do people who, as a whole have decided to make their career about helping others. Sure, there are occasional complaints along the way, but I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a crowd of hard-working, positive individuals.
Disillusionment is something I constantly fight as a nurse practitioner. It can be easy to downplay the nature of patient’s problems after treating the same condition over and over again. It’s tempting to play the blame game or stereotype patients based on their medical problems and situations. Constant reminders are required to remember that ear infections in kids throw off a family’s schedule, and that a simple laceration may result in significant lost income for a laborer unable to work.
Overall, my career as a nurse practitioner has looked quite balanced, and perhaps that’s what I like about it most. Without a few challenges to overcome and struggles along the way, I would not be able to appreciate how far I’ve come. The things in life that are worth attention take time, devotion, and occasionally sacrifice – my career is one of them.
What have been the highs and lows of your nurse practitioner career?