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6 Best Career Options for Nurse Practitioners in 2021


Written By: Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC

How do you decide what the best nurse practitioner career is? Is it based on salary or work-life balance? Do you want adventure and spontaneity, or are you simply looking for some flexibility? Your ideal career may change over time as you continue to grow in your role as a nurse practitioner. Here we will highlight 6 of the best career paths for nurse practitioners in the coming year so you can explore the diverse options and benefits of various roles.


1. Telemedicine


The COVID-19 crisis has telemedicine booming and hospitals and healthcare organizations are talking about how it might be here to stay. If you like the idea of working from home or if you’re looking for a job you can take with you as you travel, look no further than the screen in front of you. Whether it’s an online company like The Pill Club or a hospital hoping to continue to reach patients in their home, telehealth is likely to continue growing with technology.


2. Locum Tenens


If you’re wondering what “locum tenens” means you’re not alone. I was confused the first time I read it too. This is really just a special way of saying traveling nurse practitioner. A locum tenens position may be right for you if you’re passionate about travel and want to integrate this with your job, or if you are interested in trying different subspecialties. For example, a women’s health nurse practitioner may take a 3-month assignment at an outpatient obstetrics and gynecology clinic and then take an assignment at a different location in a fertility clinic. As a locum tenens nurse practitioner, you will work with an agency to find assignments ranging anywhere from a week to at times a year or more in length. Hourly pay is often higher than what you would make if you were employed full-time for one organization, and benefits may or may not be included. Many agencies will cover living and travel expenses as well. If you thrive off of adventure and are looking to gain experience in different areas check out some locum tenens agencies!


3. College Health


Does the thought of college health sound boring? Think again! While your patient population may be within a narrow age range, college health nurse practitioners provide a variety of types of care to students. You may find yourself caring for student’s primary care, sexual health, psychiatric health, and providing travel advice and vaccinations to students preparing to study abroad. As a college health nurse practitioner, you have the privilege of teaching young adults about their bodies which can be a unique way to be involved in preventative care. Often college health nurse practitioners have ample vacation time with summers and a few weeks in the winter free, as well as regular earned time off. This career can be ideal for people with children or who want more time to travel during the year. Pay will vary based on the university and months per year that you are working, but the Bureau for Labor Statistics reports nurse practitioners working in educational services earning a median annual salary of $108,790. Some universities may even offer course discounts to employees!


4. Emergency Nurse Practitioner


Do you like to think on your feet and see a variety of clinical issues? Working as an emergency nurse practitioner may be the path for you. Emergency department employees have been prominent in the news in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. In 2021 emergency room nurse practitioners are still going to be expected to juggle a variety of clinical cases including obstetric emergencies, infectious disease, psychiatric disorders, trauma, and more. These jobs are often marketed towards adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners or family nurse practitioners; however obstetric emergency departments and pediatric emergency departments will employ women’s health nurse practitioners and pediatric nurse practitioners as well. Working in an emergency department means you are less likely to have a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule, but shift work can be rewarding as you may have more autonomy over your schedule.


5. Community Health


It’s no secret that education in the United States is expensive, and most of us didn’t come into nursing for the money. If you are looking to care for your community and advocate for the medically underserved, community health opportunities can provide that and much more. In this position, you will likely encounter conditions that you might not see in better-resourced communities. If you are passionate about patient education, caring for a diverse patient population, and are looking for more autonomy in your career then community health is for you. The shortage of healthcare providers in many marginalized communities means that growth and autonomy may happen quicker than it would in a resourced setting. An added incentive is that working in community health makes you eligible for student loan forgiveness programs such as the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.


6. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner


The entire world in 2020 has and is feeling the effects of COVID-19. Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners have been in high demand prior to the COVID-19 crisis and employment vacancies are unlikely to decrease in 2021 as the world continues to cope with the pandemic. So aside from job security what does a psychiatric mental nurse practitioner career offer? Flexibility. From working on a hospital floor to seeing patients via telehealth from the comfort of your own home, this career path can help you design your ideal schedule and work location.


Conclusion


As we finish 2020 and move into 2021 the healthcare industry is likely to continue adapting to the global health situation, but nurse practitioners are here to stay. Regardless of your specialty, there are many different paths. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics the employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 26 percent from 2018 to 2028. As a nurse practitioner, the sky is the limit and you can always change career paths if you’re unsatisfied where you are. Hone in on what you want your life to look like and get creative. Whether it’s higher pay, variety, flexibility, or tranquility your dream nurse practitioner career in 2021 is waiting for you.


Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC
Lauren Jacobson is a registered nurse and women’s health nurse practitioner who is passionate about global health and gender-based violence prevention. She is Editor and an Advisory Board Member for the Global Nursing Caucus and volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights as a medical evaluator for asylum seekers.