What Should You Do After You Graduate NP or PA School? [SLIDESHARE]

Posted on: June 24, 2016

written by

Emma Siemasko

Congratulations! You've graduated as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Friends and family are proud, and they’ve applauded as you’ve stepped across the stage in a cap and gown. You’re ready to take on what’s next.

You want to put your degree to good use, but you’re not sure where to start. Should you take a step back and relax, or plunge headfirst into a job? Should you try to work where you did your clinical studies, or look elsewhere?

You’ve heard there are a lot of jobs out there. According to U.S. News & World Report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024, the field for nurse practitioners (NPs) will grow by 35 percent, opening up 44,700 new positions. The same is true for physician assistants (PAs), who will see 33,000 new jobs by 2022.

But there are also more and more NPs and PAs getting degrees, making the landscape competitive. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), roughly 17,000 NPs completed their degrees in 2014 alone, and there were 205,000 registered NPs in the U.S. in all. By 2025, AANP expects that there will be 244,000 NPs in the country. 

Check out our SlideShare for additional advice. 

In short, the months after graduation can be daunting. That’s why we’re sharing five more tips for navigating the uncertainty of life after your degree:

1. Take a Breather

Whether you have a job offer on the table or plan to go out and look for work, the months after graduation provide an opportunity to get your life in order. Now’s the time to take care of anything you neglected while you were in school. Because you’re not swept up in a hectic student schedule, you can go to the dentist, get an oil change on your car, and reconnect with family and friends. Taking some time to step back after graduation will help you feel refreshed.

2. Use Your Network

NPs and PAs often get jobs in the clinic they worked in during school. But if you're not a huge fan or weren't offered a full-time position, you might decide to look for something new. One of the best ways to find the position that you want is to use your network. When Julia Levin-Rector was in nursing school, she became president of the Student Nurses’ Association at the Medical University of South Carolina. “I met tons of other students and nursing faculty, and we were able to share our career goals. We also networked with other schools, which helped because I networked with people across the state,” she says. When Levin-Rector graduated, she was able to tap into this network to learn about job opportunities.

3. Try Some New Things to Gain Experience

It can be tempting to take the first job that comes your way. You likely spent time in a healthcare facility while in school, and you may have received a job offer. But that doesn’t mean you have to take it. Life is funny — you never know what path will make you happiest. You may think that working in obstetrics is the only choice for you, but find you love working in family medicine. The only way you can find out which path will make you happiest is to try things on. You might consider working at a summer camp, at a school, in a hospital, or at a clinic. You could also consider temporary positions as a locum tenens provider.

4. Hone Your People Skills

“So much of being a healthcare provider is understanding people and going beyond clinical skills,” says Kelly Channell, a Boston-based nurse who is currently studying to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). “For example, what will you do if someone comes in for an ear infection but you notice a bruise on their arm and suspect they are in an abusive relationship? Of course, you have to treat the ear infection, but how are you going to get this person to trust you enough to tell you their real problem?” But it’s not just the patients you need to understand. It’s also the other healthcare providers that you work with. Channell says that new graduates should work together with others at their practice to give patients the best possible care. Part of this is being proactive in looking for solutions, rather than asking your boss for a quick answer. It’s also important to bounce ideas off others working alongside you, even if they’re below your pay grade. For a nurse, there is nothing more frustrating than when an NP or MD won't listen to a bedside nurse’s assessment or clinical change because they think they know better. Be willing to work on your people skills.

5. Ask Questions and Learn From Mistakes

“When I first graduated, I was constantly worried I was going to miss something on my assessment and a patient would have a bad clinical outcome and it would be all my fault,” said Channell. “If you ever have a question about anything, ask it. If you think you're missing something, you probably are.” Channell recommends that all recently graduated healthcare providers ask questions, no matter where they’re working or what their position is. Channell loves when new graduates ask her questions because it shows that they are taking what they are doing seriously, that they care about their patients, and that they’re willing to learn about what they don’t know. Additionally, Channell recommends coming clean about all mistakes. Covering up a mistake can cost someone their life. If something goes wrong, tell someone you trust, apologize, take responsibility for it, and move on. “We all have made mistakes — the sooner you get to them, the safer it is for a patient,” she says.

Improving Your Career After Graduation

Your education does not stop when you get your degree. As a newly graduated NP or PA, you have a lot to learn — about the field, your patients, and yourself. Be patient, and take the time to figure out the best path for you. Check out our SlideShare above for more expert advice from providers in our network, then comment below or tweet us (@bartonlocums) to share your best tips for new grads.

About Emma Siemasko

Emma Siemasko is a writer and marketing consultant who specializes in career advice, startups, and healthcare. She has contributed to a variety of healthcare publications, and enjoys the attention she gets when she visits a doctor or nurse.

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