What to Expect from a Career as a Nurse Practitioner

What to Expect from a Career as a Nurse Practitioner

Written by Deepak Bhagat, In Education, Updated On
April 27th, 2024

Working as a nurse practitioner can be an advantageous career path, full of challenges and opportunities for professional and personal growth. It’s also a highly demanding career, to the point where nurses are considered one of the stereotypes for people married to their jobs. The pandemic didn’t help in this regard, either, further pushing some nurses to their limits and requiring even more from them. While being a nurse is already hard enough, the additional duties associated with the work of a nurse practitioner add an extra layer of challenge that can be too much for some people.

All the Burden of a Regular Nurse’s Job, with Extra Duties on Top

Career as a Nurse Practitioner

Some people confuse the jobs of nurses and nurse practitioners, often using the titles interchangeably. They’re pretty different in reality, though, with nurse practitioners taking on more severe duties than regular nurses. In general, a nurse practitioner is expected to do everything a nurse does, with some additional tasks like diagnosing patients and prescribing medication. Thus, the work done by a nurse practitioner is a blend of the responsibilities of a nurse and some of those of a physician. It’s a more demanding job than that of a nurse, and the additional duties it introduces can be very burdening, as they have some severe legal implications.

Your Initial Progress Will Be Slow

The career of a nurse practitioner can be somewhat frustrating in the beginning because initial progress tends to be very slow, even by healthcare standards. Most people working in the field should already be used to prolonged periods without any promotion or even a raise. Still, nurse practitioners might find themselves in an even more challenging situation in this regard.

The typical path you’ll have to follow through your career requires you to work in the same position for a long time without moving up, and the sooner you come to terms with that, the better you’ll feel about how your career is progressing. Talking to other people can be very helpful, as it can provide you with additional insight into your situation and show you that you’re not alone in this.

Working Conditions Don’t Always Reflect the Market’s Demand

Nurses and physicians are frequently hailed as heroes over the last couple of years, and the media keeps focusing on the importance of their work. With that in mind, you’d probably expect hospitals and clinics to treat you with a similar level of respect, but you’re in for an unpleasant surprise if you approach the job with that attitude.

The sad truth is that many admins still see nurses as easily replaceable, and you’ll have to get used to feeling underappreciated in your day-to-day work, at least for the first couple of years. Your patients are a different story – you’ll get a good mix of gratitude and contempt from them, and you’ll have to learn to deal with the negative aspects of dealing with people on a daily basis. But when it comes to your superiors, just get used to the idea that things are not going to be very pretty at first.

You Will Be Expected to Use Your Resources to Move Up

And on that note, don’t expect the facilities you work for to provide you with the tools you need to move up in your career. More often than not, you’ll be left to fend on your own when it comes to education, training courses, and additional practical experience. Thankfully, it’s possible to broaden your education without sacrificing too much of your free time nowadays with the help of online programs – click here to see some examples of courses that can be helpful in your development. It can’t hurt to ask your superiors for some help in this regard; just don’t be surprised if you don’t get far with that. In some cases, they might be willing to help you but won’t have access to the resources they need to do that.

Networking Is Key

Many careers require good networking skills in order to move up, and the job of a nurse practitioner is no exception. You won’t go far if you don’t take the time to meet people and get to know them. You are in a more convenient position than many other professionals in this regard, as being on your feet all day long and talking to people in different departments can make it relatively easy to build a good network of contacts. It’s unfortunate to see so many nurses and nurse practitioners throwing away this opportunity without even attempting to make something useful out of it. And if you take the time to build a solid network of contacts, this will help you move up faster and with far less effort than you’d typically need.

You Never Stop Learning

Even if you have a good education and otherwise solid credentials, you can never really stop learning if you want to stay on top of your game as a nurse practitioner. Healthcare is constantly evolving, and it’s one of the fastest-moving fields at the moment. Don’t be surprised if some of the things you know become outdated, and be prepared to compensate by learning new skills and exploring new parts of healthcare. There’s no denying that this is a pretty big challenge in itself, but if you don’t take the time to do that, you will quickly get left behind as your peers keep their profiles more relevant in the current climate.

Patience Is a Crucial Skill

All of this brings us to a critical point – you’ll need to be patient, and this is actually one of the most valuable skills you can have as a nurse practitioner. Your patience will be tested on a daily basis. Between issues with your patients, slow progress through the ranks, and the need to constantly learn new things before you can take the next big step in your career, you’re going to have to learn to wait and keep focusing on your work in the meantime. This sounds far easier than it actually is, especially if you’re a more dynamic person who expects constant progress.

Can You Survive with No Technological Aptitude?

Technology plays a significant role in healthcare nowadays, and the work of nurses and nurse practitioners commonly leverages advanced tools and different modern gadgets. Your daily work will also expose you to various applications that can help you optimize your workflow and improve your performance. It’s essential to take the time to study those occasionally. Again, this is something you’ll be expected to do on your own time and initiative. Nobody is going to push you in that direction – but your superiors definitely will expect to see some progress in this regard sooner or later.

You might not enjoy modern tech too much, but you can’t really avoid the need for it if you want to go far in any part of healthcare. You don’t have to become a technological expert, but simply taking the time to learn some of the most popular tools in your field will go a long way toward helping you do your job better. It will also make you a more attractive candidate for promotion, and as we mentioned above, you’ll need to leverage everything you can in this regard.

Avoiding Burnout

One of the biggest problems of this profession is the tendency for experienced nurses and nurse practitioners to burn out. It happens to many people, and the pandemic made that problem more prominent than ever. It’s not hard to see why some nurses choose to give up, and you have to come to terms with the fact that these emotions might hit you, too. Nobody is immune to that, and seeing people outright not caring about their health while you’re trying to save them and those around them can be very disheartening.

You should put as much effort as you can into preventing this because it’s the kind of problem that can quickly creep up on you and overtake your entire life. And when that happens, nothing will be able to make you go back to how things were. It’s good to see that this problem is being addressed publicly more often nowadays, but we still have a long way to go until it’s actually resolved for good. Until then, you must prepare yourself to deal with it, too, eventually.

If the above doesn’t scare you, definitely take a look at the field and see if you’ve got what it takes to enter it. The initial barrier is relatively high, and not many people make it past that stage. However, if you have the right mindset and the determination to succeed, working as a nurse can be a gratifying, productive career for years to come. And unlike many other jobs right now, there’s no risk that you’ll be phased out of the market at some point, especially if you’re better than the average practitioner.

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