You started your NP program with the purpose of ultimately working as a nurse practitioner. Why is it then that so many nurse practitioner program graduates have difficulty finding jobs after graduation? I think you need to be willing to get creative and do some thinking outside the box. No, I’m not talking about renting a billboard to advertise yourself, just being a little craftier than other NP graduates entering the job market. Let me tell you my story.
A few months prior to completion of my FNP program, I began to start thinking about entering the “real world”. My life as a student was coming to an end and I was going to need to start making some money- quickly. I did not have any experience working as an RN; I was in an accelerated bridge program getting my RN and NP degree all at once. Working as an RN wasn’t a great backup plan for me seeing as I had no experience with floor nursing. Also, there was the dreaded certification exam. I couldn’t take that until I had graduated. Then, I had to wait on my certification to process before I could get my state license, then I had to wait for my license in order to get a DEA number… Working with the government never goes quickly as far as I’m concerned so I had at least two months until all of my paperwork processed and I was actually a certified, DEA number carrying nurse practitioner. The problem? I could not go two months without buying groceries and paying my rent and I was tired of mooching off my parents.
As I was doing the research regarding how long it would take me to get certified, I came across a loophole in TN State law. I could work for 90 days as an NP prior to having my TN advanced practice nursing license as long as I worked under the supervision of a physician. This would allow me to start working while simultaneously going through the dreaded certification process. However, if I were to find a job, I would not yet be able to prescribe medications because I did not have a DEA number.
Now that I had a solution to finding immediate employment despite the problem of the lengthy NP certification process, I looked for a job. After applying to multiple NP jobs on sites like careerbuilder.com, I became frustrated. No one was calling me back. Most job postings asked for two to three years of experience which I did not have. Then, I began to essentially “cold call” medical practices in my area. This is were I had my big break.
I searched online for “primary care clinics Nashville” and “urgent care Nashville” finding clinics in my area I thought looked like good prospects for my first job. On sites that had a comments section, I simply wrote a quick e-mail explaining that I was a nurse practitioner looking for employment with an intended start date around August 20. For clinics that did not offer online comment forms, I simply called the clinic and asked the receptionist to give my contact information to the practice manager. I contacted about ten clinics and finally got a response! A family practice/ walk-in clinic about 15 minutes from my house was looking for a new NP. During my interview, I explained that I would be officially certified by October 1, but based on state law I could practice as an NP as long as a physician was on site and willing to sign my prescriptions until this date. I was hired on the spot!
If you are graduating from an NP program, research the laws in your state to see if they allow recent NP graduates to begin practicing temporarily without official certification. Don’t overwhelm your prospective employers by explaining this process in painstaking detail- simply offer them a quick, concise timeline of when you will be fully certified and explain any limitations you will have until you are fully certified.
I believe employers are looking for hard workers and agreeable personalities as much as experience. By contacting prospective employers directly, you are showing them you are motivated and interested in their practice. You will get better responses from employers by contacting them directly rather than going through a recruiter or an online job search engine.
Most of all, when looking for your first nurse practitioner position be confident! Even if you are a new grad, you have something to offer. Know your state laws, be aggressive in looking for jobs and you will get hired!