Is Your Nurse Practitioner Career Lacking Upward Mobility?

As the daughter of a physician, I noticed early on in life that the job description of a clinician stays pretty constant over the course of one’s career. While my friend’s parents might get a promotion or relocate for professional purposes, the day to day life of a doctor didn’t necessitate moving or mandate many job transitions. As a nurse practitioner, I have also lived this reality. Everywhere I work in a clinical capacity, my job will be to treat patients face-to-face in the clinic or hospital setting.

At times I enjoy the stability of my role as a nurse practitioner. Now that I have become quite comfortable treating patients in the emergency department, I can show up at work making my way through my shift with a relatively low stress level. The hospital where I work has undergone some changes over the course of my employment, but treating chest pain, abdominal pain and fractures is still my M.O.

Other times, I have grown frustrated with the my rarely changing role as a nurse practitioner. More established in our careers (read older), my friends working in other industries have received promotions, attained offices with windows – a coveted symbol of achievement, and made ‘partner’ at law firms. Without a ‘next step’, life as a nurse practitioner can sometimes seem like being a hamster on a wheel. I certainly love my job and can’t complain about NP salaries, but opportunity for upward mobility can be motivating.

It may not be the norm, but it is possible to have upward mobility as a nurse practitioner. Here are a few ways this might look for you as an NP.

1. Increase in Salary – As you become a more experienced nurse practitioner, you add more value to an employer. So, you should be compensated accordingly. Over the course of my 7 year NP career, my hourly pay rate has essentially doubled. Some of this is a result of a change in specialty but much of my pay increase is tied to my level of experience. Your role as a nurse practitioner may remain the same, but your competency improves leading to a better paycheck helping mitigate a feeling of stagnation.

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2. Specialized Positions – While switching specialties as a nurse practitioner might look more like a lateral move, it can up your professional cred. Becoming highly specialized or an expert in one practice area can be rewarding personally and professionally. By having specialized knowledge you might be sought out to speak at a conference or by other providers for patient care advice. Becoming an ‘expert’ in your field carries with it professional clout.

3. Move Into Management – There are a number of opportunities for nurse practitioners, especially those working in hospital systems, to step into leadership roles. Consider applying for these opportunities. Seek to become a director of your department or set your sights on working up to a chief nursing officer position. Many times, employers will allow nurse practitioners in management or administrative positions to continue practicing a few hours a week to keep up clinical skills as well.

4. Industry Opportunities – Looking to take a break from clinical practice? Many companies providing healthcare services and products would be happy to have nurse practitioners join their team in a non-clinical capacity. Perhaps you can secure a position in a pharmaceutical company. Or, work with a healthcare technology business. It can be difficult to replace your NP salary in the business world so keep this in mind as you consider a transition.

5. Learn New Skills Leaning new skills and procedures is an easy way to ‘move up’ in a clinical setting. Training and becoming certified to perform new procedures generates more revenue for your practice. It keeps you engaged and learning throughout your career. Taking initiative also sets you apart from others opening the door to future upward moving opportunities.

Do you feel like your position lacks upward mobility? Do you see this as a positive or negative?


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1 thought on “Is Your Nurse Practitioner Career Lacking Upward Mobility?”

  1. Very much same with PAs. We should work together on this. Doing a residency for PAs and possibly passing specialty boards adds significant salary. My question would be, just what does upward mobility mean for NPs and PAs?

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