Editor’s Note: Updated June 2019
The last thing you want is to find yourself perusing nurse practitioner job ads because of disillusionment or the realization that the job you took wasn’t all it was promised to be.
You have the tools at your disposal to avoid accepting the wrong position. Remember, it’s not all about being liked; you have to like your new workplace, too. To ensure this happens — or, at least, to increase your chances — savvy job seekers know to ask a few key questions during an interview.
Here are some of our favorites:
Question #1: Which Characteristics Are Necessary for Success at This Organization?
This question gets at whether your personality is a good fit for the workplace. You already know your clinical skills are a match; otherwise, you wouldn’t have been invited to interview. However, matching skills don’t guarantee that you will be happy.
This is your chance to determine if your personality aligns with the workplace culture. If you don’t possess traits the organization values, then you should keep looking.
Question #2: What Is the Orientation Period Like?
Push for specifics. You want to find out not just how long orientation is, but who will be in charge of it. Is it structured or informal? How many patients will you be expected to see as you learn the ropes? What happens if you need additional time?
For many NPs, the orientation period sets the stage for the future. If you finish your orientation feeling that your needs weren’t met, it doesn’t bode well for your future job satisfaction at that hospital, practice, or organization.
Question #3: How Many Other NPs Work Here?
Asking about the employer’s experience with other nurse practitioners will enable you to determine whether a potential employer truly understands the NP’s role. Too many NPs have found out after the fact that the employer was operating on outdated or inaccurate ideas of what a nurse practitioner brings to a practice.
If they have never hired an NP before, there is nothing wrong with being the first — but you should know what you are getting yourself into before you accept the job. It takes a confident and strong person to be a trailblazer. If you’re not the first, it’s also wise to ask why the current NP in the role is leaving.
While you’re on the subject, ask how many other advanced practice clinicians are in the practice, as well as how long they have been there. If everyone is new, it might mean there’s a high turnover rate, which can be a sign of a troubled workplace.
Question #4: How Many Patients Will I Be Expected to See in a Typical Day?
This is an especially critical question if you are changing specialties. Appointment times and daily workloads can vary from one specialty to the next. What is considered fast-paced in one setting might be a slow day in another.
In any case, I hear from many NPs who are frustrated because of the high number of patients they are required to see daily. Regardless of your specialty, you’ll want to make sure that your expectations and preferences align with reality before you take on the role.
Question #5: Who Would Be My Backup?
Even in states that have full practice authority, it is important to know who is available for collaboration. Is this person an MD or another advanced practice clinician? Are they on-site, or are they only available by telephone? This information is crucial, especially if you are a new grad.
As a follow-up question, ask if you can meet your backup. You don’t want to find out on your first day that the designated clinician was never told about his or her new responsibilities. (Yes, this has happened!)
An interview is not just about the employer getting to know you. As with any new relationship, you should assess the situation as a whole and form an opinion about your potential employer — just as they are certainly forming an opinion of you. Watch their body language and note how your interviewer reacts to your questions. This is equally as important as their answers. If the answers don’t come easily or seem rehearsed, it could be a sign of workplace problems.
If all goes well, you can accept the position secure in the knowledge that you did your due diligence. And if not, then you know you can happily decline and explore some of your other options!