Entering into the nurse practitioner or physician assistant profession as a new graduate is an exciting, but overwhelming time.

You have completed all the necessary training and passed certification exams. You are qualified to do your part to improve the primary care health provider shortage in America. But then you are faced with the complex and challenging patient scenarios that come with providing care to the underserved.

Although it is true that the ability to efficiently take care of these patients will come with time and hard work, here are five tips for surviving those early years:

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  1. Build relationships. This tip has two parts. The first and most important relationship to build is with your patients. Establishing rapport and cultivating a true interest in their well-being will be worthwhile when you are not exactly sure of the diagnosis or treatment plan. Connect with your patients on the fundamental level of humanity.
    The second important relationships you must build is with various specialists in your area. Join professional associations in your region and network with other providers. This will ensure that your patients receive the best possible care and will allow you to learn from those who are experts in their fields. It will also provide you with a support system.
  2. Maintain relationships. Keeping in contact with your old professors and preceptors will allow you to always have a resource to turn to when you encounter complex patients. 
  3. Become very familiar with the $4 pharmacy formulary. The medications on this formulary will most likely be the only medications your patients can afford. Prescribing affordable medications will be a necessary skill to develop if you are to achieve the desired outcomes of pharmacological treatment. 
  4. Have confidence. Remember that you possess a unique skill set, one that is valuable and necessary to improve the health of Americans. You are qualified to provide your patients with the best possible care.
  5. Remember the reason. Things are going to get difficult at times. Maybe your day-to-day work will start to lose its meaning, or you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, tired or angry about some aspect of your job. Remind yourself often of the reason you went into the medical field. Remembering your passion and where it came from will help you keep going.

Leigh Montejo, MSN, FNP-BC, provides health care to underserved populations at the Metropolitan Community Health Service’s Agape Clinic in Washington, North Carolina.