Congratulations graduates! You should be feeling proud of yourself if you’re wrapping up your nurse practitioner program this year. Earning a masters or doctorate degree is not an easy accomplishment and you did it! While your NP program was a structured experience, now that you’ve graduated, your next steps are wide open. Some nurse practitioners I talk with find themselves paralyzed with indecision when they’re released from school obligations. Others aren’t quite sure where to get started. Make sure you succeed in your hard-earned career by avoiding these common mistakes.
1. Procrastinating on the boards
Feeling burned out? It’s natural to be sick and tired of studying once finals week is over. The last thing new grad nurse practitioners want to spend time on is studying for the certification exam. But, there’s no time like the present when it comes to taking your boards. Waiting longer than a month or two to take your certification exam after graduation means you’re probably forgetting valuable information you’ll need to take and pass the test. Begin the process of scheduling your exam immediately when you graduate so you can get this step out of the way. Not only are you more likely to perform well on the test, you’ll also be a better candidate for NP jobs if you’re certified.
2. Delaying the job search
Employers don’t like to see lengthy employment gaps after graduation. The clinical knowledge you’ve gained in your nurse practitioner program is essential to on-the-job performance. If you wait several months after graduation to apply for jobs, hospitals and clinics assume you’ve forgotten some of what you learned. Or, they assume there must be some red flags as far as your performance or background if you’ve yet to secure employment. It’s tempting to coast in the months after graduation, but digging deep and rediscovering the motivation for your nurse practitioner career is essential to keeping you on track and doing so in a timely manner.
3. Being too picky
My dream as a nurse practitioner new graduate was to work in the emergency department. You probably have a vision for where your NP career as well. Most new nurse practitioners, however, don’t secure their dream job right out of school. I worked in primary care and then in urgent care to gain experience before I was able to get an interview for and ED job. As a new NP, keep yourself open to opportunities that might not be your ideal situation. You’re at the bottom of the ladder in your profession at this point and you’ll need to work your way up before you have the experience and leverage you need to work in your dream job or negotiate a top salary. You’ll get there – but it may not be this year. So, consider benefits like employment experience when you evaluate job opportunities rather than just a paycheck or specialty. Focus on your long-term goals.
4. Overlooking employment details
Although you may not be a candidate for your dream job just yet, new grad nurse practitioners must do due diligence when it comes to evaluating employment opportunities. Read your contract carefully. Research the company where you’re interviewing. Evaluate if the position is right for you and one that’s appropriate for a new graduate. As an inexperienced nurse practitioner you may need to make some compromises, but be careful not to land yourself in an sticky employment situation or one with unanticipated expectations.
5. Not anticipating challenges ahead
Your first year working as a nurse practitioner will be hard. No matter the amount of RN experience you have or the quality of your NP schooling, you’ve still got a lot to learn. Expect your first year working as a nurse practitioner to be challenging. Very challenging. You’ll feel uncomfortable. You will work long hours. You’ll be stressed out. You will learn more than you ever thought possible over the course of your first year of work. NPs who expect employment to be less stressful or less challenging than school quickly become frustrated. Have realistic expectations for your first NP job.