Now over 30 (gasp!), many of my friends are on baby #2. The reality of having a family is setting in for my former nurse practitioner school classmates, and each has a different opinion as to the best plan for balancing work and family life. Some continue working full time, others quit their jobs entirely, and yet others are fortunate enough to find a flexible middle ground. Nurse practitioners who do put their careers on hold for family may find themselves regretting the decision later in life.
The nature of the nurse practitioner role coupled with the realities of putting one’s career on hold in general, make setting work aside to start a family particularly damaging to one’s NP career. Before you decide to pull the plug on your professional pursuits, think through the following implications.
Use it or Lose It
A substantial amount of clinical knowledge and skill is required to practice as a nurse practitioner. You have attended a graduate program and potentially worked for years to become more confident and competent in your area of practice. Quitting your work as a nurse practitioner completely can mean losing part of this skill set. If you aren’t using your medical knowledge, you’re likely to forget much of what you need to know for patient care should you decide to return to the workforce. This is particularly true for less experienced NPs who don’t have as established a clinical foundation.
Fewer Opportunities for Flexibility
Life as a working mom is tough (or so I’m told!). Flexibility when it comes to your work schedule is a major asset to balancing life with little ones. Employers you’ve been loyal to for a long period of time are more likely to offer the flexibility you need to pursue both your profession and growing a family. Quitting completely then picking your career up again later means you once again must prove yourself to an employer before your boss is willing to give a little to accommodate personal scheduling needs.
Maintaining your nurse practitioner certification requires that you work in the clinical setting for a specified number of hours in each certification period. Taking pause from the NP profession could mean losing your certification. Keeping your foot in the door by working a minimum number of hours means you won’t find yourself studying once again for the boards.
The Changing Healthcare Landscape
Healthcare is a rapidly changing field. Treatment guidelines for medical conditions change constantly. Pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs. Technological advances like electronic health records make the day to day of working as a nurse practitioner look different from year to year. Returning to work after taking a break from your NP career means playing a lot of catch up when it comes to what working as a nurse practitioner looks like.
Dollars and Cents
As you become a more proficient NP, your salary will increase to reflect your competency. Nurse practitioners electing to leave to workforce may fall behind when it comes to compensation. Leaving clinical practice for a lengthy period of time can mean a lower salary when you return.
The Dreaded Job Search
Gaps in employment can be a red flag on your resume– even if they exist for a totally legitimate reason like starting a family. Employers are aware that the longer you are out of practice, you may forget your clinical skills, and that the transition from staying at home to employment can be rocky. Sure, it’s not fair that your job application will be stigmatized, but it’s a reality.
If you’re thinking about taking a break from your nurse practitioner career to spend time with family, think carefully about your decision. If there is a possibility you would like to return to the profession at a later date, consider keeping your foot in the door. Many employers would be happy to keep you on a PRN basis to cover other provider’s vacations and fill in scheduling gaps. Maintaining your certification and NP know-how will make going back to work once your family is established much easier.
Do you plan to put your nurse practitioner career on pause?