I also have a PhD in a hard science and used to medical research. I have no interest in going back to bench research and I really dont want to move to a large city although I am pretty sure with my back ground that some kind of pharmaceutical job I would be a good fit. They are mostly in the big cities and I like my country life.
Sounds like me! I'm a former molecular biology MS, didn't like the benchwork, so I went back to RN school. And like you I'm looking at the NP route.
You're smart to check it out to make sure that you'll be able to work after you get your degree. I'd advise you to look to the Bureau of Labor Standards or to specific NP organizations to determine how many jobs there are. Even if you don't find a job as an NP I've heard of NPs working as RN at the bedside when they can't find an NP position.
Also, this is advice that is probably coming too late for you, but you can do the NP degree part-time. Many hospitals will help pay for nursing education, enough to take a class or two at a time. If the hospital has a nursing school
with an NP program you can often go for free. The only problem is that if you took longer than 2015 to complete you might have to get the DNP.
And, as I've heard in previous threads, you have to ask yourself what is important to you when deciding on these things. People will give you various bits of advice, but in the end you have to decide what your goals are.