How Much Paid Time Off Should Nurse Practitioners Expect?

Personally, paid time off (PTO) is a big deal for me as a nurse practitioner. As NPs, our jobs can be demanding and we simply need a break. Not to mention, we often work holidays, weekends, and other odd hours, while professionals in other industries get a break. Vacation days offer nurse practitioners flexibility, and make a significant impact on work-life balance. So, just how many of these precious days should NPs expect?

Most employers give nurse practitioners a set number of days they can expect to be paid, without showing up at work. In some cases these days are all lumped under the title ‘PTO’. In others, these days are segregated into ‘sick days’, ‘vacation days’, and ‘personal days’. According to The Society of Human Resource Management, employees typically receive an average of 10 vacation days the first year of service, an average of 15 vacation days after 5 years of service, and an average of 20 days after 15 years of service

While these numbers don’t relate to nurse practitioners specifically, studies do show that individuals working as professionals, as well as those earning higher than average salaries, typically receive slightly more paid time off than average as part of a benefits package. Nurse practitioners fall into these categories. 

As you evaluate the PTO portion of your employment offer, it’s important to ask the following questions to understand exactly how your package works and is worth: 

  1. Can you ‘sell’ unused days back to the company?
  2. Do days roll over, or does the company’s plan fall under the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy?
  3. Is paid time off accrued and built up over the course of your employment? Or, do you receive the days up front?
  4. How far in advance do you need to notify your employer if you plan to use your vacation time?
  5. Will you be required to use your PTO benefit to receive pay on holidays on which you do not work? Or, will you automatically receive holiday pay?
  6. Will you be required to use vacation days to attend continuing education conferences, or is time off for CME awarded separately?

With any proposed paid time off package, it’s important to translate the offer into real life to evaluate its practicality. In my current position, for example, my employer does not give nurse practitioners either vacation days or sick days. Considering the wacky schedule we hold in the emergency department, however, each NP ends up with much more flexibility this way.

Rather than tracking and limiting time off requests, we simply submit vacation requests, and the scheduling coordinator works our allotted number of shifts in around requests. Signing an employment agreement without a outlined vacation policy required some faith, however my schedule has allowed for significantly more time away from work than I would have ever expected. 

So, evaluate the package your employer offers with a little perspective in mind. What will your vacation schedule look like with the proposed time off plan? Does the plan cover sick days or unanticipated family emergencies? You can always try to negotiate for a few more PTO days…it never hurts to ask!

How much paid time off do you get as a nurse practitioner?


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