NP Career Blog

Nurse Practitioner Job News & Advice

5 Most Effective Tips to Get Hired in an NP or PA Specialty Job

As a newly minted – or even early career – nurse practitioner or physician assistant, finding a job in specialty can feel like an insurmountable task. And yet every year, thousands of your colleagues start their careers as specialists straight out of training.

How do they make this happen? Luck? Did they compromise big on something that would be a non-starter for you? Do they ‘know a guy?’

It may not be easy, but if you are strategic and persistent, you too can land the best specialty job for your skills and clinical interests.

Below, I will show you my five best tips for getting hired in a specialty as a new nurse practitioner or PA.

NPs and PAs work in just about every surgical and medical specialty

  1. Show Enthusiasm Early on for Your Specialty

The first time you express interest in your specialty should not be during a job interview. If that’s the case, your chances of making it any further in that process are less than ideal.

That’s because specializing is not for everybody. Employers, not to mention specialists themselves, know this. The demands of the job, the lifestyle, and other requirements may be a deal breaker for some. If you like excessive levels of variety and a background of nonstop chaos, you may be better suited for emergency medicine. If you’d rather wear a bowtie than scrubs, perhaps pediatrics would be a better fit. Big crossword puzzle fan? Anesthesia. I could go on all day.

In all seriousness, your career trajectory starts in your training program. If you are interested in neurosurgery, a research project in that general vicinity can do you wonders at a job interview. It shows that you are interested, engaged, and can maintain this focus for the long haul.

Your career path isn’t set in stone, however. Changing specialties later on may be a serious task, but it’s not impossible. It’s nowhere near as hard as starting a new career from scratch or going back to school because you are unhappy with your work.

However, keep in mind that hiring, training, and then losing a specialty PA or NP can hurt any department or organization. They don’t want to take that chance on you unless they are reasonably sure it’ll pay off. You don’t want to take that chance either, as you may not be immune to any financial, emotional, or professional difficulties from such a decision, either.

2. Networking Is Not a Four-Letter Word

If you are like the rest of us, you aren’t the biggest fan of ‘networking.’ It’s not something clinicians often admit to enjoying, let alone doing. However, put two clinicians in the same room and eventually they’ll form a bond over a common experience. They may even offer suggestions to help alleviate each other’s clinical pain points.

That’s really all ‘networking’ is; forming relationships with people and offering to help. Whether that’s filling a job vacancy, hiring a new provider, or just being a friend and colleague, it counts.

One of the best ways to do this is to attend your local, regional, and national conferences. Local conferences are great for making contacts in a new area, while regional and national events can be leveraged to expand your network or meet people who make hiring decisions in a totally new area.

Don’t forget about events at your hospital, such as grand rounds. Attend as many events that you can use as an excuse to get in the same room as more experienced clinicians.

If going to a physical conference is out of the question, networking online is more valuable than ever, and can create real connections. Joining and engaging in communities like Clinician1 can be as good as attending a conference. There are around 50,000 active PA’s, NP’s, and students who call themselves members, many of whom are happy to connect with you.

You may have heard that most people find jobs through people they know. I have landed multiple job offers this way, sometimes in otherwise unlikely, roundabout ways. Often, these positions also seem to be more interesting than those I see posted on generic, non-clinically focused job search sites.

I have also been able to turn a hobby into a successful side hustle and business through ‘networking.’ Almost all my clients who contract with me for my medical writing services found me through mutual connections, word of mouth, or (you guessed it) someone I already knew.

Of course, that’s just a single case study, which you know is the lowest quality of evidence. Consider the following.

In 2016, LinkedIn polled approximately 3,000 individuals in staff and management positions, asking how they found their most recent job. The results were clear. The clear majority of people surveyed (85%) reported that they found their employment primarily through someone they already knew.

Glassdoor, an online job board that allows people to anonymously report their salary, did a similar study in 2009. They found that the chances of receiving an offer were about two to six percent higher if you were referred by a current employee. And yes, this was statistically significant.

Can you find a job without any connections? Absolutely. But why make things harder on yourself? If you thought the world of medicine was small, wait until you enter the world of a specialty.

3. Do Your Research

Like any other job, it helps to get an edge on the competition with a little digging. By being an expert on the company, the medical group, the other providers, and the administrators, you can do something no other interviewee can do quite as well.

By using this information, you have the ability to steer the conversation towards them. People love talking about themselves, and you’d be correct to think a specialist is no different. This can serve two purposes. One, it builds trust and rapport; and two, you gain a unique insight to help you better judge what it might be like working with this group.

It’s not all about schmoozing, however. Healthcare providers do not get a ton of privacy online. Without much difficulty, you can find a clinician’s accomplishments, state licenses, and other public information. That also means the negative press, publicly available court records, and state license sanctions are just a Google search away.

The issues surrounding these topics can fill libraries worth of textbooks. Even the presence of one or more of these factors does not necessarily paint a full (or fair) picture of an individual practitioner.

However, don’t discount your gut if you think you see several red flags or get a bad feeling about a provider or group. All clinicians are endowed with a special ‘spidey-sense’ that allows us to tell just how sick a patient is by merely being in the same room as them. As new clinicians, you may feel uncertain or fear using this sense. As you gain experience, it gets stronger the more you realize it was right all along. This can also be applied to other areas of life, such as job-hunting. If something is ‘off,’ you may want to rethink the particular job opportunity.

Remember that this is a two-way street, which is why clinicians should keep a clean online presence. If you don’t, you may want to work on that, or at least have a good explanation ready for anything negative in your past that comes up

4. Know Your Worth

The general salary data that many new graduates use as a reference is not always reflective of the market. Specialty compensation data is available and should be based on actual evidence and value. Most non-healthcare hiring managers are not aware of your true value and may not extend a truly equitable offer.

Consider your expected productivity, individual level of autonomy, call schedule, and procedures for which you will be responsible. How much training and support will be provided? Is it an environment conducive to professional growth?

Don’t forget that geographic location, setting (such as academic or community hospital, private practice, etc), size of the group, and other characteristics can make or break a job for an individual. All of these factors can affect the value the employer provides to you, depending on your goals. And remember the salary data is just a starting point. Both parties should stand to gain for a truly effective relationship to form.

5. Craft Your Plan

We are lucky enough to be in a great NP and PA job market, as your very own NP Career Coach told me on our recent podcast. However, we are always up against tough competition for any specific job opening.

Planning out your job search in advance can put you miles ahead of the competition.

For example, it’s always good to have an updated resume. Learn how to write a good cover letter. Practice common interview questions. Job-hunting is an entire industry you need to become familiar with. And if all that seems like too much to handle on your own, a clinician career coach can make a world of a difference to you.

Execute Your Strategy

It’s not easy to get hired in a specialty as a new clinician, but it is possible. Remember that it starts before graduation, and all your professors who harp on that are right!

Get to know other clinicians and hiring professionals in your specialty long before ever asking for a job. Networking doesn’t have to be so awkward anymore. With resources like LinkedIn, Clinician1, and other communities specifically made for healthcare professionals, it’s easier than ever to foster those connections.

Be sure to research your potential employer as thoroughly as you can. This helps you determine what kind of a match you might be there. Spend a little time now to avoid the pain of a potentially toxic environment.

With appropriate research, you can also get a better idea of the true value you bring to employers so that you can get a fair compensation arrangement. Just make sure you both come out ahead.

Once you have the foundation laid, finalize your plans to target your perfect specialty job, and be sure to check out resources from the NP Career Coach. Good luck!

Jordan G. Roberts, PA-C is a neurosurgical PA who has a passion for medical communications that goes beyond creating great content. He is a nationally recognized speaker, published scientific author, and medical podcaster. He strives to demonstrate an excellence in all things medicine that he knows every clinician is capable of achieving. He blogs at ModernMedEd where he is a medical writer and medical education consultant.

Twitter: @ModernMedEd
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordangrobertspa-c/

How did caring become so complicated?

It is no coincidence that the number of Nurse Practitioners are showing a growing interest in non-clinical positions. There isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t hear from one or more nurse practitioners who are looking to leave direct care.

Burnout is not a new phenomenon, especially for nurses. It’s long been recognized that the strain of continually caring for others can take a toll on the caregiver. “Compassion fatigue” is the term used but I am not so sure that is what is going on here. NPs are telling me that it’s not caring for patients that has worn them down, in fact it’s quite the contrary.

Barrier to Caring

Nurse practitioners WANT to care, it’s what keeps us going. We went into this business to form relationships and make a difference. We were drawn to this role because we were told we would have more time with patients, and we would use this time to educate, inspire and empathize. Instead, what we are encountering in practice now is what I like to call “compassion frustration”. Despite the focus on patient satisfaction it seems too many current practice models are doing everything possible to create barriers that result in encounters that turn out to be unsatisfying to everyone involved.

Decreases in visit time coupled with increasing documentation and payer requirements are getting in the way of therapeutic relationships. One of the most frequent reasons NPs tell me they want to leave direct patient care is that the clinic has become like a treadmill and the clinician is feeling the pressure to either keep up or fall off. Fifteen minute visits, of which 5-7 minutes are taken up by rooming, leaving less than 10 to see the patient and document then on to the next, and the next, and the next. Rinse and repeat. Oh, and answer calls and emails, do prior authorization and of course don’t forget the billing. And because NPs love their patients they maximize their time with the patient and the end result is the NP staying long past clinic hours to finish documenting and completing these other tasks.

Using only the wisdom that administrators and analysts possess, instead of simply giving the clinician an additional 10 minutes with a patient, more extraneous persons have been added to the patient experience. Time for documentation is a problem? We’ll hire a scribe! Non-adherence to a treatment plan? Let’s hire another person to find out why!

More money spent on endless mailings touting a staff of coordinators, educators and of course the website. We now have a host of different people employed to do different aspects of what used to be done by the one person who knew the patient best. How does that save time? Or money? It doesn’t. And it certainly doesn’t increase provider or patient satisfaction. Quite the opposite. Adding more water to the soup doesn’t make it more filling.

I’m waiting for the study that shows fancy programs and initiatives are not a substitute for the good old-fashioned relationship between caregiver and patient. A girl can always dream but I am not holding my breath…

NP Career Coach interviewed in Clinician 1 podcast

Join me as i speak with Jordan G. Roberts, PA-C and I will tell you why it is SO important to de-clutter your resume, offer a few tips (and cautions) on job searching in the current job market along with a few other job seeking gems. Oh, and i will tell you all about going to jail… for the right reasons. All this wisdom is delivered with a healthy dose of humor.

Cover Letters and Nurse Practitioners

There seems to be some confusion about cover letters.  I have seen some advice on the big box job sites that is telling job seekers that the advice to include a cover letter may be a thing of the past.  No doubt this will have many of you jumping for joy – I mean, who likes to write a cover letter anyway? 

As always I feel compelled to issue my standard warning: Caution! The majority of advice you will find online is geared towards job seekers in the business community and are therefore may not be applicable to the Nurse Practitioner profession.  
When you read general job advice columns it is important to slow down and read the fine print. First, make sure that you are comparing apples to apples.  What I found is that if you read carefully you will find that the advice refers only to email inquiries and applications.  In other words, you must be emailing an actual person rather than submitting an online application directly into the system.  As most of you already know, that doesn’t happen very often.  Most “apply here” links take you into an automated applicant system and not to an actual HR representative. 
The article makes the assertion that since you are emailing then your email can take the place of the cover letter. Fair enough. I do agree with that point.  Of course, what is not clearly stated is that it is necessary that your email be formatted and written exactly like, well …a cover letter.  So you can see that the reports of the demise of the cover letter are indeed premature and greatly exaggerated. It seems that the point the articles are making is that your cover letter information should be in your email rather than sent as an email attachment.
Here is the NP Career Coach’s advice on covers letters for Advanced Practice or NP jobs. 

 

1.      You still need one.  Cover letters are not mere decoration for your resume.  A cover letter tells the prospective employer you are capable of professional-grade written communication skills and that you possess at least a minimum understanding of the social graces.  Nothing starts you off on the wrong foot with an employer quite like a sending an email that states only “I am interested in your position” or “attached is my resume”.  No greeting, no closing, just bad manners. 

 

2.      Cover letters are a great way to fill in areas that are not always clear on a resume. For example, explaining gaps in employment and articulating your goals and interests. You can also let the employer know whether or not you are interested in any other positions.  Oh, and if you know someone who works there you can (and should) name drop. J

 

3.      Do it all. Attach it, put it in the body of your email too.  Who cares if they receive two copies of the same thing?  It’s just not that big of a deal.  Some prefer to have an attachment and some prefer an email so do both and give them options.  Attachments look better than emails when printed and that can be a plus.  Putting your cover letter in the body of the email will increase the chances it is read upon opening.  But as you all know an inbox can get cluttered and saved emails sometimes get deleted.  Adding an attachment allows the recipient the ability to download and save your cover letter. 

 

4.      One of the most frustrating problems I encountered as a recruiter was receiving hundreds of attachments titled “cover letter” or “resume” which made it very difficult to find a particular candidates file. Problem solved.  You can easily avoid this confusion by naming your attachments with your name rather than “cover letter”.  See how easy that was?  Remember, the idea is to stand out and make your application easier to find.

 

5.      And finally, if you don’t already have one you should create a professional email account with your full name.  Busy recruiters and hiring managers don’t have the time to scroll through an inbox or contact list trying to guess which email is from you.  Using your full name as your email address just makes it that much easier to find you.  It also makes you look more mature than using an email address such as “proudmommy” or “catluvver”.    

You can’t “redo” an interview. Tips to get your interview right the first time

 

There are good interviews and there are great interviews.  Simply showing up on time and rehashing your resume does not constitute a good interview, much less a great one.

 

But before I can teach you how to ace your next interview let’s first be clear about the purpose of an interview.  In today’s healthcare market employers are looking for more than just the right skill set, they want the right fit.  The interview is the best method an employer has to get a glimpse into WHO you are and what you are like as a person. Interviews are an opportunity for an employer to see firsthand how you think and how you organize your thoughts and to determine whether or not you will be a good fit with the culture of their organization. 

 

I just recently sat through a round of several interviews and while the candidates said all the right things many of them still didn’t make the right impression.  I realized that even though they all were bright talented clinicians they made some errors that undermined their skills and left a poor impression.

 

These easily avoidable errors fall into the following categories.  

 

Articulation and detail: Employers appreciate that when you are asked a direct question you provide a direct answer.  Simply asserting that you are organized, flexible or caring doesn’t set you apart or make it true.  In fact, it sounds as if you are pandering and just telling your interviewer what they want to hear.  For example, many candidates dance around questions relating to conflict, leadership and teamwork with indirect answers that seem to show they understand the concepts but in the end don’t really provide a satisfactory answer to the question. What your interviewer really wants to hear from you are examples of how you have demonstrated leadership, solved a problem or worked on a team.  When you relate a real life story it also has the added benefit of humanizing you and makes you sound more natural and authentic than simply reciting some well-rehearsed talking points.   And if you really want to impress your interviewer, make sure that the example you provide is pertinent to the position you are seeking.  This will also help your interviewer to actually envision you in the position.  

 

Planning: Expect the expected.  During your interview you will inevitably be asked classic interview questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”  There is truly no good excuse for job seekers who stumble and stammer when asked “what makes you the right NP or PA for this position?”  If any of these questions ever catch you off guard during an interview the employer will assume that there has been a lack of thought and preparation on your part. Seriously, these are Interview 101 questions that employers have asked applicants since the beginning of time.  Why would anyone want to hire a clinician who failed to see the foreseeable?   

 

Self-awareness:    If you know you have performance anxiety then why didn’t you take steps to address the problem?  Some nervousness is understandable but it’s almost painful to conduct an interview when a candidate has let their nerves get the best of them.  It important that you be perceived as poised and confident, not remembered for how stressed out you were during the interview.  Strategies such as staying away from caffeine, doing some relaxation techniques and arriving early are helpful but if you really want to lick your stage fright then you need to do what performers do before a big show – practice. Find a friend to do a mock interview with you, and then rehearse over and over until your butterflies are gone.     

 

Body Language: Great candidates are also in control of their non-verbal communication.  Be the first to extend your hand, because the person who initiates the handshake is perceived as the most confident.  Good eye contact is a must.  Find something to do with your hands during the interview if you tend to be fidgety.  It can be really distracting when candidates click a pen or touch their hair repeatedly.  And, you know, like, watch the, umm, annoying verbal fillers too.  

 

Social skills: Yes, it IS possible for you to talk too much in your interview.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from hiring managers is that the candidate “hi-jacked” and took over the interview.  Let the interviewer set the agenda and the pace. The best candidates understand that interviews also involve listening.  Employers want to share information about their organization and their open position.  Your job is to be engaged, don’t interrupt, and listen politely.  When it is your turn to speak, take a second or two to gather your thoughts before you begin.  No one will notice and you will sound smarter.  

 

Manners: Interviewers also appreciate when you save your questions until the end. This is especially true if the interview is highly structured. It can be difficult for the interviewer to stay on track and organized if a candidate is repeatedly interjecting with questions.  And please, always have some questions prepared.  There is nothing that makes you look more disinterested to an interviewer than when you have no questions.  

 

Attitude: There is a saying that people may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel.  People are drawn to people who have a good attitude and a positive outlook.  Complaining is a red flag, so you should always speak favorably about your previous experiences and former colleagues and leave out the negatives.  And smile.  Your behavior during an interview is a proxy indicator to an employer of how you might behave when you are with a patient. 

 

Now go rock your next interview! 

Hello! What Does it Take for a New Grad to get Some Attention Around Here?

 

Dear NP Career Coach: 

 

I am a new grad NP and I am in the process of job search. I am struggling to get even an interview. Could you help me with how to market myself so that I can get the recruiters to look at my resume?

 

Dear New Grad NP:    

 

When crafting your new grad resume keep these points in mind.  
  1. Your resume needs to demonstrate that you have the skills the employer wants.
  2. The only thing that matters is what the employer wants. 
  3. As a new graduate the most marketable experience you have is your clinical rotations. 
    To be successful your resume must contain clear and easy to find information.  You can’t get an interview if the recruiter can’t determine whether or not you meet the requirements.   Your resume will have about 30 seconds to catch the eye of the employer, so it’s important to be sure all the info in your resume is easy to find.  The reader shouldn’t have to strain or work hard to figure out who you are. 
    In today’s market employers are expecting to receive a resume that is tailored to the position.  When creating their first NP resume many new graduates get carried away and include too much extraneous information.  Remember, your resume is just a snapshot to show the employer you are a match – not your entire life history.
    First, you must make it clear to the reader that you possess the appropriate educational preparation.  Place your educational section at the top of your resume. Make sure you have included your degree and the dates it was earned (or will be earned).   You can safely omit elements like your GPA, thesis, or doctoral project.   This simply adds clutter to your resume without increasing your marketability.  I know you worked hard for your GPA, but it doesn’t belong on your resume. 
    Second, clearly indicate your certification.  You will be seen as ineligible for the position if information relating to your certification status is missing. Identify the name your certifying body and note either “current” or the expiration date of your board certification. If you have not yet taken boards note “pending” or your scheduled test date.     Also, be sure you list your RN licenses.  This may seem like a no brainer but it is important that your nursing license(s) be on your resume.
    Next is your experience section.   As a new grad your clinical rotations are your most pertinent and relevant experience.  Take a look at the job posting and find the skills the employer has stated are a requirement.  Then make sure you mention those skills in your student experience section.   Avoid statements that reflect minimum entry levels skills.  It’s a waste of space on your resume to say “manage acute and chronic conditions” or “history and physical exam skills”.  That won’t set you apart.  Give the recruiter some real data about procedures, specific conditions and populations.   You should find this data in your clinical logs. 
    Finally, take care not to focus on your RN experience.  Employers like to see that you had RN experience but they are not interested in your RN duties.   A simple entry indicating the department where you worked in will be sufficient.   You are applying for an NP job and you are a new NP graduate, however, you are competing against candidates who have NP experience.   To put it bluntly, what you did as an RN will not trump actual NP experience so it’s best not to waste the resume space because it won’t make you more marketable.  If the employer wants to hear more about your RN jobs they will ask you about them in an interview. 
    Oh, and a nice cover letter will help you get noticed too. 
    I will send you my cover letter and resume guides via email. 
    Good luck and keep me posted on your job search. 
    ~Renee