One of the fastest-growing careers within the healthcare industry across the country right now is that of a nurse practitioner.
With resources being stretched thin and family physicians often in short supply, especially in rural and remote regions, nurse practitioners are stepping in to fill the void.
The field is expected to grow by an incredible 45% by 2030 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which blows the national job growth average out of the water. So, could this be a career path worth pursuing?
Here we’ll take a look at what a nurse practitioner is, the different tracks they can take, what the job environment is like, the salary and what kind of traits can help you to succeed. This information will help you to make a more informed decision.
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
As a nurse practitioner, it will be your job to offer your patients services that are much more advanced than that of a registered nurse. A nurse practitioner is not the same as a doctor, but they are able to assess, order lab tests, and prescribe medications (depending on the state laws). They will often consult with other healthcare professionals such as physicians in order to help their patients. They are both specialty care and primary care providers.
There are Different Nurse Practitioner Tracks
A really interesting fact about this career path is that people can choose different nurse practitioner tracks to pursue. This allows for a more specialized approach that they may feel more excited, passionate, or experienced with.
The most common nurse practitioner tracks are:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
As you can see from these tracks, each one has a different patient profile and the issues you may encounter can also be different. Once you pick a track, it’s important to get schooling/training in that particular speciality. You can check out options such as the AGACNP programs available through Baylor University. This is the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner track, where you’ll be working with young adults, adults, and seniors offering critical care management, acute care, and disease prevention.
If you’re considering a job as a nurse practitioner, it would be wise to read up on each of the tracks, get to know what they entail, and figure out which one speaks to you.
Nurse Practitioner Employment Statistics
In terms of the statistics, the US BLS provides current data that can help shine a light on the industry as a whole. As mentioned, the job growth is massive, with no signs of slowing. As for the median pay, it is $117,670 as of 2020. Some states are known for paying more and some are below average. The work environment can be private offices, outpatient care centres, hospitals, clinics, and more.
There is never a guarantee for any job, but the healthcare industry as a whole is extremely robust with hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. It’s hard to find any other field with this level of growth and promise.
What Sort of Traits Should You Have?
With so much emphasis on training, schooling, licenses, certifications, and registrations, it can be forgotten that there are some basic skills and personality traits that can set you up for success in the field. Even if you don’t possess these skills and traits naturally, chances are you can work on them and improve them. Some traits that can help you to excel in the job include:
- Attention to detail
- Extremely well organized
- Ability to multi-task
- Ability to perform well in high-stress situations
- Excellent communication skills
- Excellent listening skills
- Ability to put people at ease
- Good work ethic
- Great time management skills
- Good leadership skills
- Time management skills
- Analytical skills
This is just a condensed list of traits, as there is so much that goes into being a successful nurse practitioner. As you can also see from that list, most of these traits aren’t going to be ones you learn on the job; instead, they are life lessons that can benefit you both professionally and at home. There’s no time like the present to start working on them.
Be Prepared for Long Days
It’s also important to go into the job with realistic expectations. Depending on the work environment, it may not be a typical Monday-Friday 9-5 job. That’s not often the nature of healthcare. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. Certainly, if you have your own practice, you’ll be in charge of the hours, and you can create the kind of work week that suits you.
Even still, your shifts can be exhausting mentally and physically so you need to know the best ways to cope with these feelings so you can continue to excel.
One of the best ways to cope with stress and the long days at work is to take good care of yourself outside of work. Consider the following tips:
- Eat a healthy well-balanced diet so you get all the necessary vitamins and nutrients
- Stay physically active
- Make time for yourself and don’ let work overtake your life
- Socialize with friends and family, giving yourself a chance to relax
- Get enough sleep each night
- Learn how to leave the stress of work in the workplace – don’t bring it home
- Recognize when you’re stretched too thin and know when it’s time to start saying no to invitations and commitments
- Be kind to yourself, you will have hard days at work and it’s okay to go through various emotions
- Speak to a professional such as a counsellor if you’re having a hard time managing stress
Only you know what’s best for yourself and what career path would make the most sense, but by learning more about various jobs, you’ll be better prepared to make a decision.