15 Most Common Reasons Nurse Practitioners Regret Being a Nurse Practitioner


Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN


It’s no news that working as a provider can be stressful and taxing on those who show up every day and give their all to patients while working in a broken medical system. Due to this unfortunate environment, nurse practitioners are rethinking their careers and are resigning in numbers never seen before in our society.

Have you wondered why do nurse practitioners regret becoming a nurse practitioner? As a nurse, family nurse practitioner, and writer, I have received many e-mails from dissatisfied and burned-out nurse practitioners telling me they are disillusioned with their careers. This article, “15 most common reasons nurse practitioners regret being a nurse practitioner”, gives insight into some of the most compelling reasons why those in our profession are stretched to the limits and no longer love their jobs.


WHY DO NURSE PRACTITIONERS REGRET BECOMING A NURSE PRACTITIONER?

(The following are the 15 most common reasons nurse practitioners regret being a nurse practitioner.)

REASON #1: Insufficient pay

In a report from Medscape called the Nurse Practitioner Burnout & Depression Report 2022, more than 2000 NPs were surveyed to measure their job dissatisfaction. This revealing report points out that 43% of NPs are unhappy with their wages. The information further disclosed that 50% of those surveyed listed better compensation as the #1 way to reduce burnout. With 31% of the NPs in the study admitting that they are considering leaving healthcare altogether, could money be an easy fix to our growing NP shortage? Read on to see if there are other contributing factors to why NPs regret being a nurse practitioner.

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REASON #2: Legal responsibilities

Let’s face it. Once you become a provider, the buck stops with you. You have a legal responsibility to your patients and those who work under you. You are calling the shots, and many times, you are the one that gets blamed when things go wrong. The threat of lawsuits is always a worry. Besides having your own skin on the line, mistakes cost lives, and the responsibility of this grave possibility falls heavy on the shoulders of an NP.


REASON #3: Supervisory expectations

Often, new NPs are surprised that they are expected to lead a staff. Nursing leadership skills do not come naturally for some, and the additional responsibility of taking the team under their tutelage may be an uncomfortable task for many nurse practitioners. As a provider, NPs may expect that they can now fly solo and step away from the group model. In fact, the opposite is true. To be an effective NP, staff communication and education, along with a hefty dose of patience, are attributes that will help make your practice successful.


REASON #4: Emotionally taxing

One of the main cons of being a nurse practitioner is the toll your sick and dying patients can take on your psyche. No matter how seasoned an NP you are, chronic illness and death can get you down. Having a patient close to your heart suffer or die will undoubtedly cause you sadness and possibly regrets. Certain cases may haunt you for years. Studies show that the job's nature directly affects depression scores for NPs of all types. In fact, the Medscape report reveals that 32% of NPs report clinical depression.


REASON #5: Scope of practice may tie your hands

Depending on where you live, your scope of practice can limit how you work. NPs in limited and restrictive practice states may regret becoming a nurse practitioner as they can barely make a decision on their own without physician oversight. Although all nurse practitioners across the US put in similar time, money, and effort for their NP schooling, only a percentage are allowed to practice freely without restrictions. For those left behind, most are frustrated, and many may question if the time and financial investment are worth the limited payoff.


REASON #6: Too heavy a Workload

Often NPs regret being a nurse practitioner due to being overloaded with patients each day in their practice resulting in limited time to spend on important health teaching and patient interaction. In the past, one of the great aspects of being an NP was that we were given the patients who needed extra time to discuss their conditions. With these time-consuming patient interactions, we could do what we do best; teach! Of late, the schedule of a nurse practitioner is crammed tight due to the money-making nature of medicine. The more patients seen equates to financial success, with the patients and NPs coming out on the losing end of the deal.


REASON #7: Inconvenient work schedule

As in many jobs in the medical profession, NPs need to work different shifts, weekends, and holidays. Even if you are fortunate and work regular office hours, you will likely need to cover off-hours occasionally. More and more, NPs are balking at the irregular hours of the profession, with those with families feeling it the most acutely. Mothers report that they regret becoming a nurse practitioner when it comes to the job stealing critical time from their family life. Due to work responsibilities, missing Christmas morning or the all-important play-off game never sits well with a family-oriented NP (or their family).


REASON #8: Gross work at times

Although some may not balk, nurse practitioner work can sometimes get icky and disgusting. Lancing boils, and debriding burns can make even the most staunch NP cringe. I once had a person's heel fall off when I checked his dressing, and underneath was a swarm of maggots. Although the larvae may actually have done some good to clean out the wound, the initial shock was revolting. For NPs with weak stomachs, the gross factor may cause some to regret being a nurse practitioner during these occurrences. As a professional provider, you can’t run away when your instincts tell you to flee. It is up to you to hold firm and complete the task, no matter the circumstances.


REASON #9: Ongoing educational requirements

Once you are a nurse practitioner, you cannot just glide through your days without any expectation to continue your educational requirements. For some NPs, this is an inconvenience. This extra demand to fit in CEUs and necessary coursework for the job can tip the scales to overwhelming for NPs with busy lives, family, and other commitments. Seasoned nurse practitioners near retirement may choose to forego the rat race to keep up with their CEU requirements and leave their practice instead.


REASON #10: Long hours

As I drive by my PCP’s office at the end of the day, I often feel sorry for my NP providers. Seeing their lone cars in the parking lot after hours reminds me why I am happy to no longer be toiling in the clinical arena. My NP provider and I often talk about the reasons for their long hours, which seem to boil down to excess paperwork and no time to do it until after their patients are long gone. Labs must be reviewed, e-mails must be read and answered, and documentation can not be taken care of during regular hours due to their packed schedule and administrative demands. Long hours at the office just to keep up with the demand may be one of the biggest reasons they regret becoming a nurse practitioner.


REASON #11: Dealing with tough staff

No list of work regrets is complete without adding employee conflict and staff difficulties. When placed in an environment with others, it is hard to bury your head in the sand and avoid conflict and drama at work. There almost always is a mean girl (or 3), the know-it-alls, those who do not do their job, and the demanding supervisor. Conflict at work can wear you down and make even the most attractive job a drag. As one of the senior employees, your role in conflict management is key. Taking a backseat and ignoring this type of problem can erode your practice along with your well-being.


REASON #12: Lack of administrative respect

Employer and administrative demands are another top complaint listed in the Medscape Nurse Practitioner Burn-out Study, with 43% feeling like they do not have a voice and are not respected by their employers. Policy and requirements are placed on NPs without their input, and they are expected to enact these changes, usually with the same time constraints and tools that are already stretched. Their employers often ignore inputs, complaints, and constructive criticism, making NPs feel unseen and unappreciated. This state of disregard can make many an NP regret being a nurse practitioner.


REASON #13: Difficult patients and family members

With a 17% increase in workplace violence, healthcare workers are being stretched for patience and to find ways to remain safe while on the job. Patients and their families are becoming increasingly demanding and often are just plain mean, while NPs struggle with staffing shortages and longer hours. It doesn’t seem fair to those trying to help, does it? Of late, nurse practitioners are feeling the effects of this damaging trend, with many suffering the mental consequences or looking for ways to get out of the business.


REASON #14: Limited job availability in some locales

Recently, a young NP mother emailed me asking about job opportunities other than the typical clinical nurse practitioner positions. She related that she lived in a remote area of the country and drove over an hour each way to work. At this juncture in her life, her time had become an important commodity, wanting to spend as much time as possible with her new family. She had tried to find NP work closer to home, but not much was available in her wheelhouse. I have heard from others that they could not find an NP job close to home for similar reasons. If you can not find a local job or have to spend considerable time commuting to your job, you may regret being a nurse practitioner for this reason alone.


REASON #15: Less hands-on patient interaction

Although some of us may enjoy the hands-off interaction with our clientele, many NPs actually miss the more practical aspect of nursing: attending to patients' day-to-day care. Depending on your work environment, you may not have the opportunity to build relationships with your patients, such as when you spent more time in patient care as a nurse. Connecting to our patients on an intimate level has been reported as one of the reasons why nurses love being a nurse. If you are that kind of NP, you may regret becoming a nurse practitioner in general as you miss out on hands-on nursing care.


My Final Thoughts


It is a bit of a sad commentary that many may be asking why do nurse practitioners regret becoming a nurse practitioner? The “15 most common reasons nurse practitioners regret being a nurse practitioner” may open your eyes to many drawbacks of this career path. Although some NPs may be dissatisfied with their jobs, others still find the profession incredible. Perhaps you can use this insight to find a position that will keep you happy for years to come. If not, your many talents and strong work ethic will be welcome outside the profession, and your employer's loss will be another’s gain, I’m sure!


Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.