This year marks my second as a New Practitioner. My first year of “NP life” was in an inpatient residency program, with all of the intensity, learning curves, and adjustments that brings. Following residency, I added a new notch to my belt: academia. I was blessed with the opportunity to take on a clinical faculty position in my area of interest at my alma mater, giving me the best of both worlds: one foot in student development and teaching and the other in clinical practice.
What this transition also afforded was the chance to adapt to a whole new set of expectations, opportunities, and responsibilities, all while continuing to collect my bearings as a New Practitioner. Over the past 7 months, I have gained some insight into the process, mostly by trial and error. While I am by no means an expert, I hope to offer some guidance in finding your best yes as a New Practitioner in four easy steps.
Step 1: Find a mentor
I cannot stress the important of this step enough. Questions abound as I continue to work toward content expert and professor extraordinaire status (spoiler alert: I have a long way to go). Thankfully, my colleagues have been eager to help me along the way. Though I am fortunate that my department has a formal mentorship program for new faculty members, some of my most helpful pieces of advice have come through informal interactions.
Avoid the temptation to wait for help to come to you. Be proactive in finding people who are willing to invest in your growth.
Step 2: Take advantage of opportunities to grow
One of the challenges of any new environment is determining where certain requests fall on the “yes-no-volun-told” spectrum. As a New Practitioner, you need to carefully balance opportunities that stretch you out of your comfort zone and the very real potential for burn out. This is where an impartial mentor can provide a helpful outsider’s perspective.
If saying “yes” to a unique opportunity provides a chance for networking, collaboration, or innovation without compromising your other commitments, it may very well be an opportunity worth taking. If, however, it is an opportunity that has fallen to you as the resident new person and puts your other responsibilities in jeopardy, then perhaps it would be best to politely decline.
Step 3: Refine your scope
As a lifelong learner, you can often become a glutton for the newest shiny object or opportunity. Unfortunately, without developing a direction for your practice, you risk becoming a jack of all trades, master of none. As you start to determine where your real passions and skills lay, you begin to develop a more nuanced approach for weighing opportunities that come your way. Once that vision and direction has started to solidify, you can safely pursue “yes’s” that align with this refined career trajectory.
Step 4: Invest in what matters
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, say yes to what refreshes you. There are volunteer and mentoring commitments that I would never give up because they give me life after a full week of clinical teaching and practice.
Prioritizing self-care is often the first item to fall by the wayside when life gets crazy when it is essential for maintaining sanity. Read that book you have been putting off for months. Go for a run when the weather is nice. Learn a new hobby. Investing in your well-being will positively affect everyone else in your sphere of influence.
Making the most of the opportunities in front of you isn’t always easy. New Practitioner life (and life, in general) doesn’t come with an instruction manual. What you do with your time is one of the most important investment decisions there is.
As author Lysa TerKeurst wrote: “The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.”