A large hospital or small private practice: Which is right for you?

A nurse job description can only tell you so much about the opportunity. You may learn about responsibilities and logistics, but it won't tell you what it's actually like to work at a specific organization. Taking a position at a larger hospital can be quite different from becoming a private practice nurse.

Salaries can vary greatly across care centers, but the size and type of an organization can have a direct impact on what your daily life looks like. Here's a brief break-down of the differences between large providers and smaller ones:

Patient interactions
Perhaps the most important consideration before becoming a private practice nurse or joining a larger care network is the ability to work with patients closely. The American Medical Association found that 60.7 percent of doctors work in organizations with 10 doctors or fewer, meaning that the small, community provider plays a major role in healthcare. For nurses, these sorts of institutions allow for strong patient relationships because more time is dedicated to each visitor. A private practice nurse can get to know his or her patients quite well.

Patient interactions are at the heart of nursing but can change depending on the size of a provider.Patient interactions are at the heart of nursing, but can change depending on the size of a provider.

Nurses at larger hospitals, meanwhile, still have an opportunity for strong, meaningful interactions with patients. These organizations do serve a larger population, meaning it can be a little less likely to see an individual as often or consistently. Before taking a job, it's important to carefully consider how important patient relationships are to you and what type of location might be most appropriate.

Networking opportunities
One thing that a large healthcare system offers is the ability to work alongside specialists and build a strong professional network. For young nurses especially, there are opportunities to meet colleagues working in research, education or even management. This makes it easier when seeking a second opinion or gathering resources to select a treatment.

Some of the biggest networks in the country employ thousands of health professionals, and may allow for greater collaboration and exploration than smaller organizations or clinics. You can still find a mentor and grow as a private practice nurse, but there will likely be a smaller scope of opportunities.

The use of technology
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology found that although the vast majority of healthcare providers have adopted an electronic health record system and other digital tools, some opt for more basic solutions. Larger networks often have the financial flexibility and personnel resources to invest in the strongest EHR platform, while smaller hospitals or doctors' offices may struggle to afford and integrate such a system.

At some of the country's largest healthcare organizations, you'll be trained using digital platforms right away. As a private practice nurse, this can be a secondary concern. It may not make sense to organize your job search around technology usage, but it's something to be aware of when considering potential opportunities.

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