Room to breathe—creating the control you crave as an NP


We all want more freedom, more control as nurse practitioners.

Yes, we want the opportunity to serve patients at a higher level with more hands-on involvement in care, but there’s also a desire to have greater control in crafting our lives as NPs both inside and outside of work. That’s one of the benefits of becoming an NP. Unlike shift work as an RN, where working weekends, holidays, and evenings is inevitable, NP work affords more opportunities and flexibility.  

It’s interesting to note that not all NPs feel this increased freedom and control upon entering practice.  After a short time, some NPs feel burned out and don’t control their schedules or careers. I, too, struggled with feeling constricted at times in my role with patients scheduled back-to-back, all day, every day, with one brief 30-minute unpaid lunch break that I spent catching up on documentation, returning patient calls, and calling pharmacies about medications I had ordered.

At times, I found myself missing my time as a floor nurse where at least I could take more breaks, and every moment of my time was not scheduled with direct patient care. I could write my notes more leisurely while my patients rested, and when they were in groups, I could pull their morning or afternoon medications, so I stayed on top of my work. I just felt like there was more room to breathe at times as a floor nurse in comparison to my work as an NP.

A reduction in perceived freedom and flexibility as an NP is a bit backward. We should be feeling more control, not less. To avoid becoming more constricted in work as an NP, it’s important to create structures around the types of jobs we pursue and set boundaries in offer contracts to preserve our flexibility and agency as NPs. We need to create breathing room for ourselves instead of expecting it.

I created more breathing room with each subsequent job I landed. I got more comfortable noticing what I liked and disliked about my work, including the daily structure, documentation time, patient population, and sense of autonomy I experienced. I had assumed I would know these things upon entering practice as a new grad, but it took some time to figure out.

Awareness of values varies from person to person, but the key is to understand your values and preferences. For example, I’m a provider who values protected documentation time and a sense of autonomy over how my patients are scheduled. Other NPs may value working only a set number of days per week or blocked time each month to meet with a collaborating provider to review complex patient cases.

Some of the awareness of your values and preferences comes from experience as an NP, but you can also get a sense of your preferences as an RN and what you like and don’t like in practice there. Keeping in mind your priorities and values makes the job search simpler and helps you find a job with an intention that falls in line with your values, ultimately leading to a much happier you.  

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