I’ve received a few questions lately from prospective nurse practitioner students considering direct entry programs in regards to future job prospects. So, I’ve decided a blog post on the topic is in order. Direct entry programs offer a nurse practitioner education to students without a background in nursing. These programs are convenient for individuals looking to make a career change, however direct entry NP students graduate without nursing experience. Students considering these types of programs worry about their post-graduation job prospects, and rightly so.
I always recommend that nurses and non-nurses alike check out the job market in the location where they anticipate practicing post-graduation. Are there ample opportunities for nurse practitioners where you plan to live? Or, will finding a job be nearly impossible? How much do nurse practitioner positions in your area and specialty pay? Does going back to school make sense financially? These are all questions you must ask yourself before going to school to get your nurse practitioner degree regardless of your professional background.
Students considering direct entry programs have an additional consideration-they will graduate from their NP program without nursing experience. So, just how difficult is it to find a job as a direct entry nurse practitioner grad? It depends.
Location, Location, Location
Just like location affects the job market outlook for even the most experienced nurse practitioners, it is an important consideration for direct entry NP grads. Some cities simply have more nurse practitioner positions or are home to fewer NPs than others. This is affected by a location’s desirability, the scope of practice for NPs, and the economy of the city overall.
In competitive job markets, nurse practitioner new grads lacking RN experience may have difficulty landing a position. Look into the job market where you would like to practice if you’re considering becoming an NP. If it is highly competitive or there are few job opportunities, you may need to consider living elsewhere, keep an open mind to a long commute, or work as an RN temporarily to give yourself an edge.
Some specialties are more conducive than others to jumping right into the nurse practitioner role. Family nurse practitioner and psychiatric nurse practitioner specialties, for example, are easier to enter without nursing experience. NPs working in these areas typically treat lower acuity patients. In contrast, new grads looking to work in the ICU or other acute environments may require more of a nursing background as they may treat patients on ventilators or may be more likely to perform complex procedures. Employers hesitate to hire direct entry nurse practitioner graduates lacking healthcare experience in more acute environments.
In addition, there are more job opportunities available to, say family nurse practitioners than adult or acute care NPs as the specialty itself is in higher demand. FNPs may work in primary care clinics or specialty clinics as well as treat children and adults. This affords them more options when it comes to their job search with or without nursing experience.
Playing Off Preceptorships
Professional connections play a major role in the job search process. Many nurse practitioner students make these connections during their clinical preceptorships. Clinics and hospitals looking to hire often turn toward students who are doing clinical rotations at their facility. Based on their experiences working with the student, they can predetermine if the NP will be a good match for the position. If you land a preceptorship at a facility looking to hire a nurse practitioner in the near future and prove yourself as a motivated NP student, you may be offered a job regardless of your level of experience.
Not only do preceptors often hire NP students with whom they have worked, they serve as valuable connections to others in the healthcare community. Direct entry nurse practitioners would do well to ask their preceptors which other providers in the area may be hiring in the near future. Use these connections to build a professional network. A positive personal recommendation can outweigh lack of experience.
How’s Your Personality?
If you can at least land an interview as a direct entry new grad, you may be well on your way to securing a nurse practitioner job. Employers hire people they like. If your interview responses are well rehearsed and you present yourself as competent and professional, your lack of experience becomes less important. Research shows that likeability is more important than ability in the hiring process. Sure, this isn’t true for all positions, but it does play a big role. A hiring physician, for example, may be willing to put time into training an NP without experience if he/she thinks the nurse practitioner is highly motivated to learn and will be a good personality fit for the practice.
Set Your Expectations
Finding a job as a direct entry nurse practitioner graduate depends a lot on your expectations and flexibility. If you hope to jump right into the perfect role, avoid working weekends and holidays, all while having a 10 minute commute, reset your expectations. You may not land the ideal NP position right out of school, especially as a direct entry student. A lengthy commute may be necessary to gain experience. You may need to work in primary care for a year or two before you can land your dream job in cardiology. Keeping an open mind when it comes to your job search gives you more options so you can kick off your NP career.
Did you graduate from a direct entry nurse practitioner program? Were you able to find a job without nursing experience?