Nursing Jobs: Hospital or Private Practice

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Family nurse practitioner going over data with young patient

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for nurse practitioners between 2016 and 2026 is expected to grow 31% (as of April 2019), which is much faster than the national average for other occupations. Within this growth, family nurse practitioners will fill positions in various work environments, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, military settings, home health care opportunities and nursing and long-term care facilities.

Of the potential work environments, hospitals and private practices are among the most common, amounting to a collective 74% in 2016, according to the BLS. Each setting comes with a different atmosphere, unique opportunities for career development, benefits and more.

When it comes to deciding on the best work environment, it’s all about determining where you could see yourself thrive as an FNP. Determining where you’ll feel most comfortable can lead to your overall success.

Let’s take a closer look to determine whether you should work in a private practice or hospital:

What to expect when working in a hospital

In a hospital, you can expect high acuity and intensity of work in terms of how many patients you’ll see each day as well as the variety of health concerns that may arise. Because of the size expectations, hospitals will likely have a greater amount of support staff on deck to assist in times of need. This gives you more time to focus on delivering care instead of worrying about paperwork or electronic record entry.

Hospitals tend to involve high-risk situations, which can make the work environment more hectic than a private practice. Patients generally visit a hospital for more severe, life-threatening illnesses and conditions, seeking nurse and physician assistance for immediate interventions to reduce complications. Tine Health reported that FNPs play a critical role in overall hospital quality improvement, as you will also assist with bedside and medication management, surgery assistance and some data reporting (2017). Nurses, including FNPs, are also equipped to provide patients, family members, guardians and other loved ones with post-hospital care techniques and general knowledge during a stay.

A hospital may provide greater flexibility in terms of days worked than a private practice. However, these shifts will be longer — reports that many hospital nurse practitioners work three 12-hour shifts during the week. This is beneficial for those who are less inclined to work a traditional 9 to 5.

Hospital salary is another factor that may determine your interest in working in this setting. According to Monster, FNPs who practice in hospitals often have higher base pay but may have a salary cap. Patient satisfaction metrics and overtime hours can impact pay, however (2019). Extra perks and employee benefits like health insurance, tuition reimbursement and relocation funding may come into play in a hospital as well.

Group of medical professionals

What to expect when working in a private practice

A private practice is the more common workplace setting for FNPs. In fact, a study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that 60 percent of respondents reported working in an outpatient or private practice work environment (2016).

Working in a private practice, you can anticipate a routine, according to Monster. You will likely work with patients coming in for checkups instead of those seeking care for more serious conditions and emergency situations. A role as a nurse in private practice provides more opportunity to be an educator and develop closer relationships with patients. You’ll see fewer patients during the day, giving you more time to get to know each person and their unique situation.

An example of what duties to expect as an FNP in family medicine private practice comes from a job listing on Indeed. The opportunity lists assignments like administering immunizations, checking and documenting vitals, checking prescriptions and communicating with patients and their families throughout the stay.

Private practice nurse practitioners may find more work-life balance than those who work in a hospital. You can expect to work a traditional 9-to-5 shift, five days a week. You’ll also find more flexibility, according to Donna Cardillo, a nursing career coach and author based in Sea Girt, New Jersey.

“In a private practice, you can ask if you can come back 30 minutes later from lunch; you certainly can’t do that in a hospital,” Cardillo told Monster.

Working in a private practice may amount to a lower base salary, but there may be more opportunity for negotiating depending on how large or small the practice is. Overtime may not be as available as in a hospital, but private practices often offer similar benefits, in terms of health care and vacation time, to nurses in hospitals.

How Bradley can prepare you for a role in both settings

With so many different learning and career growth opportunities presented in hospitals and private practice, you can further invest in your education by enrolling at Bradley University.

By pursuing the 100% online Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University, you’ll gain the knowledge and expertise in advanced nursing theory, patient-centered care and research practice to take on a leadership role in nearly any health care setting. Built for those who lead a busy life, so you can complete the coursework when it’s most convenient for you.

Are you ready to use your skills as a nurse practitioner in a new setting? For more information on the program, check out the online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Bradley University today.


Recommended Readings

Acute vs. chronic: FNP caring strategies for both illness types

What are the differences between a DNP and an MD?

Bradley University Nursing Programs



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BLS Nurse Practitioner Work Environment – Hospital or private practice

Indeed Registered Nurse

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The Role of Nurses in Hospital Quality Improvement

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