Despite the sagging economy, the demand for NPs and PAs is still strong, and most individuals will have options when it is time to decide where to practice. But choosing where to practice can be a difficult decision to make.

“Job satisfaction relates to a number of factors,” says Jennifer Anne Hohman, assistant director of professional advocacy for the American Academy of Physician Assistants in Alexandria, Va.

Finding the right fit is like piecing together a puzzle, says Walter Moore, MD, senior associate dean for veteran affairs and graduate medical education at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga.

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To make it work, students need to identify their own wants and needs and conduct careful research to make sure they are met.

There are three questions students should ask themselves, says Moore:

  • What location would best suit their family and significant others?
  • How does that location fit in with their professional goals?
  • What is the professional climate in that location for people in their specialty?

Use the Internet to research individual employers and organizations, Hohman said. Online research is also a great way to find out details about various communities, including real estate prices and information on the cost of living.

“I also recommend plugging into your professional community, whether through gatherings or online message boards,” Hohman said. There you will be able to find out if individuals have had positive or negative experiences in different areas, with different employers.

When researching, ask the following questions, says Hohman:

  • Does the employer have a good reputation in the medical community?
  • Does the position offer opportunities for advancement and an interesting set of clinical responsibilities?
  • How does pay correspond to cost of living?
  • How is the commute to work?
  • Does the character of the location meet your needs?
  • Is the employer willing to negotiate a fair and mutually beneficial contract?
  • Does the employer share your philosophy/approach to medical practice?
  • Is the position in a field you have interest in?
  • Is there a rich selection of medical employment positions in this area or just a few?

Do not limit the search to job listings, Moore said. Many positions are not advertised, and the only way to find out about them is by networking. If a student does not know anyone in their target area, he or she should look to professors or past graduates for assistance, he adds.

Plan early for success

Targeting a location is a process that should begin well before a student has completed his or her studies, says Moore. The earlier students start looking, the more connections they will have when it comes time to find a job.

Moore also advised to always have a fallback plan. If things don’t work out as intended, it’s important to shift to Plan B.

“Listen to your gut when assessing various employment opportunities,” Hohman said. “Think about what sorts of professional opportunities and settings you thrive in and seek them out.”