Why Networking is Important for Nurse Practitioners

Every morning I wake up, flip on the coffee pot, and thumb through e-mails on my phone in a relaxed fashion. I have no intention of removing my body from my snuggly sweat pants until at least 9am. I am working, perhaps doing laundry or blogging, or maybe mentally preparing for an all-night shift in the ER, but without the pressures of a traditional business job. No, the cubicle and standard 9 to 5 shift is not for me. 

I work odd hours. I rarely face rush-hour and when I do it is by choice for a social engagement. The life of a nurse practitioner, especially on working in the emergency department, lacks the rhythm of a typical job. And that's why I like it. 

In loving my non-traditional hours and flexible schedule as well as the ability to wear scrubs, which are essentially pajamas, to work, I long resisted all things associated with the lifestyle of the business world. Early in my career, I shied from networking, a common business practice, as well. I already had a job, what need was there to reach out to others in my profession? As an introvert, networking doesn't come naturally to me, anyway. 

As my nurse practitioner career has matured, however, I have realized the value of adopting some of these habits business-minded professionals seem to follow, namely networking. Networking can seem forced, and I'm not promoting being polite exclusively for the purpose of getting ahead in life, but relationships with others working in medicine can help further your career (put down the Tinder app...when I say relationships, I'm not talking romantic hook-ups here). 

Getting to know others in your field expands your view of the NP profession. Simply as a result of my intentionality to stop and chat with other nurse practitioners working outside my department, I have met NPs working in fields from cosmetic dermatology to cardiac electrophysiology. Initially, I had no idea such a specialties were available to nurse practitioners. And, now, when I have a random question about pacemakers or defibrillators, or when I turn 40 and need a few units of Botox, I know who to call. 

Forming professional relationships with others working in medicine but outside of your profession help you become a more well-rounded NP. Working relationships with physicians, for example, can help you expand your medical knowledge base. Reaching out to the pharmacists you work with, or even those who fill your personal prescriptions, gives you an unmatched resource when it comes to questions about drugs and prescribing. 

Intentionally interacting with others in the business side of medicine offers a unique perspective benefiting NPs as well. These relationships can lead to helpful insight into the politics at play within the hospital system where you work (yes, hospitals all have politics), or about changes coming to the healthcare system as a whole and how they will affect your practice. Understanding where healthcare technology is headed helps you anticipate advancements coming soon to your clinic or hospital. So, yes, the IT guy at work can help you with more than password retrieval when yours is forgotten after returning from vacation.

Finally, speaking with anyone and everyone about their personal healthcare experiences opens your eyes as to what it's like to be the patient. I'm not talking about prying into personal lives, but listen when others open up to you. Seeing a medical visit from the eyes of the patient is invaluable to us as nurse practitioners. It helps us improve our bedside manner and hospital or clinic atmosphere. Sad but true, focusing on the patient experience is largely ignored in many institutions. Insight into what patients want will give your practice an edge. 

Networking doesn't have to be approached from a place of pure competition or ambition. If that's not your style, simply be open to intentionally meeting people you may connect with on a professional level. Rather than stick your head in a book when the clinic is slow or the wee hours of the graveyard shift drag on, take the time to talk to those around you. You never know when a connection you make could offer valuable insight or lead to a much needed job in the future.