4 Valuable Lessons Learned by Working in a NP Job You Hate

Have you ever worked as a nurse practitioner in a position that, let’s say, ‘built character’? I’ll be honest. Having a professional career isn’t always the ladder-climbing dream many people make it out to be. Medical practices and hospitals are often mismanaged. Coworkers are annoying. And, well, maybe you just aren’t a great fit for the specialty where you’ve established yourself as an NP. If your collaborating physician is a total jerk, your practice is falling apart at the seams, or you just can’t face writing another unnecessary prescription for a Z-Pack, take five before you throw in the towel. Your not-so-ideal job may be totally worth it. 

Tough circumstances have a funny way of teaching us lessons. I’m not saying you should remain indefinitely working as a nurse practitioner in a job you dislike, however it is important to view the situation in a balanced light. What are you learning? 

Having held several jobs as an NP working in a less than ideal setting, or for an employer who didn’t quite handle practice operations effectively, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few such life and career lessons. These are my valuable takeaways. 

Clinical Competency

Part of the challenge of life as a nurse practitioner is the learning curve. In your first years on the job, or in a new specialty, it can seem like you are totally lost. Making each and every diagnosis is a challenge. You require reference resources for prescribing appropriately. Support in your position may be scarce. Struggling to meet expectations day in and day out makes for a long week. But, without such challenges, we would not increase our clinical know-how. Embrace the pain of the learning process. It’s worth it. 

How to Step it Up

If you don’t like your job, rather than quit, you can always opt for the alternate approach. Put on your big girl or guy nursing clogs, and do something about it. As a nurse practitioner, you do hold power in your practice. You are a revenue-generating provider. Identify changes that would improve your workplace and take the lead in initiating these actions. This can be something as simple as adjusting your own attitude and engaging with coworkers in a positive light to improve workplace culture. Or, it may mean taking a more formal stance on day to day operations. Taking initiative to change your surroundings speaks to your professional maturity, and can be a rewarding experience in itself. 

How to Find Your Niche

As a nurse practitioner student, I enrolled in the acute care NP track. After all, I was intense. I enjoyed life or death situations. I thrived on adrenaline. And then, I started clinicals. Much to my surprise, I hated the hospital floor. The bureaucracy frustrated me. Sick patients didn’t present in quite the way I imagined. The smells… No, the med-surg floor and the neuro ICU were not like the latest episode of Gray’s Anatomy. While I hated my clinicals in these settings, the experience helped me find my passion. I switched to the family nurse practitioner track which was more my speed. The less than enjoyable experience helped me identify where I fit best in my profession. 

A Reality Check 

I have several dream jobs. One is to be the person that masseuses test out their skills on (that job must exist, right?). Another is to write articles for a lifestyle magazine on topics like ‘The World’s 10 Best Beaches’. And, I can’t just take other people’s word for it, I have to visit them myself. Sometimes I also want to hang it all up and work in an ice cream shop a la my high school days, because unlike at the hospital, in an ice cream store (almost) all of the customers are happy. 

Unfortunately, however, the reality is that work is work. Even the author of the ‘World’s 10 Best Beaches’ article probably has a demanding boss, grows exhausted from hopping red-eye flights, and is booked so solid that surf, sand, and sun enjoyment is reduced to a minimum. Working in a job you hate helps you appreciate those you hold in the future. Without a point of reference, any job can be painted with a negative tone. By its very definition, work requires effort. And, it’s not always easy. More difficult jobs help you appreciate those positions that afford you freedoms and enjoyment above the norm. 

What lessons have you learned by working in a nurse practitioner job you hate?