How did you decide this was a career you really wanted?
I went to nursing school thinking that's all I wanted to do. By the end of school, I knew I wanted to be an NP. I did a new grad residency program and rotated through the PICU and saw the NPs there. I applied to school that week and started NP school 8 months after becoming an RN.
How has it actually turned out in reality? What were your mistakes, what would you do different?
I absolutely love this role. It is so challenging and interesting. I work with incredibly complicated and/or sick kids and have to figure out what is wrong with them, and why, and how to fix it. The more I learn, the more I love it. I wish I had more RN experience, so I didn't sometimes ask some really dumb questions, but nursing is a second career for me, so it didn't make sense for me to stay as an RN longer. I learn a lot more as an NP, and I just suffer through looking like an idiot sometimes.
Are there any good online programs?
I did an online program and worked full-time through the whole thing. I went to UAB and thought they were a good school. But if they don't have approved clinical sites in your area, it might be a problem.
Any good career books?
I think Allnurses is better than any books. Just read through the stuff here.
How can I find out what NPs really make?
Ask around in your area. It varies so much by area and specialty that it's impossible to make a generalization. I make less than a lot of the experienced RNs at my old job. And the cost of living where I am now is a lot higher.
What about working hours.........is it generally better, or more of less the same as regular nurses?
My hours are a lot worse now. I rotate days and nights. 12 hour days, 16 hour nights. We are not allowed to sleep on nights. We are always short staffed so I've worked overtime shifts every month for over a year now. I worked my first year and a half without a single day off (including no holidays off) because they didn't have enough people to cover the shifts. Generally NPs in clinics have better hours, but they can still have long days.
Any pointers negative or positive welcomed. Also which NP is best & why? Any NPs who seriously regret doing it?
Despite the negatives to my job, I love it. I find it so much more satisfying than working as an RN. I like doing proceedures, managing sedation, diagnosing, mentoring and teaching the bedside nurses and working with our Fellows and Attendings. Also I have a great job security. There aren't a lot of places that have PICUs and use NPs, so I'm somewhat limited in that sense, but there is a huge national shortage of PICU NPs, so I had no trouble finding a job coming out of school.
And I think the best NP is the specialty that you find the most interesting. There are benefits and downsides to being an NP, so you need to go into an area that you get really excited about it. It sounds like with your background you could do any of them!