The nurse practitioner role is a career choice that is in high demand today. Whether you are already a registered nurse or are considering a future career in nursing, this could be an ideal role for you to consider. Compared to other advanced nursing positions which are often more managerial and administrative, the role of a nurse practitioner is quite unique in that it continues to be patient centered – often in many more ways compared to the role of a registered nurse. There are several reasons to consider working as a nurse practitioner, including full practice authority in twenty states and the fact that nurse practitioners often earn a much more generous salary compared to other nursing roles. Nurse practitioners are qualified to enjoy a higher degree of authority, autonomy, and responsibility in their work. In the states where nurse practitioners are given full practice authority, they have the ability to diagnose, prescribe medication, and offer treatment to patients without the need for supervision from a medical doctor.
Main Roles and Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner
Compared to a registered nurse, nurse practitioners go through additional advanced training that allows them to take on many more responsibilities within their role. In many states that have been negatively impacted by the shortage of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners are often stepping in to fill the gap that this has created and provide a better and more accessible standard of care to their patients. In some states, nurse practitioners are able to start their own clinics, making it an ideal choice of career for nurses who are interested in starting their own healthcare service or provision rather than working for an employer. In addition, nurse practitioners are in increasingly high demand in a wide range of other healthcare environments including hospitals, doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, outpatient clinics, psychiatric facilities, and more.
Reasons to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Whether you’re at the start of your career in nursing right now or have been working as a nurse for a while and have decided that it’s time to advance your career and do something different, there are many great reasons to consider pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner. One great reason is that with more and more online programs available to nurses today, getting qualified and preparing yourself for this career is easier than ever with a wide range of postgraduate programs to choose from that are designed to get you into this role after gaining a master’s degree in nursing, which you can also obtain online. Online programs are beneficial for many nurses who are hoping to progress in their career since they offer more flexibility, are more cost-effective, and are easier to fit around working as a nurse. Some further benefits of pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner include:
- High demand for nurse practitioners
- Earn at least $30k more annually compared to a registered nurse
- Various specialty areas to consider including pediatric, psychiatric, and adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
- Work in a wide range of healthcare settings
- Full practice authority in twenty US states
- More responsibility, authority and autonomy
- Influence healthcare policy and make positive changes
What Skills Does a Good Nurse Practitioner Need?
Alongside the education that is required to work in a role as a nurse practitioner, these professionals are required to have a specific set of skills in order to be successful in their career. Some nurse practitioner skills are those that you might have picked up and developed throughout your career as a registered nurse while others are qualities that may come naturally to you. Some of the most important skills and qualities that are required of a good nurse practitioner today include:
Nurse practitioners need to be good communicators. This is especially true when it comes to active listening skills, which is a crucial part of good communication in healthcare. Since nurse practitioners have a role that involves diagnosing and prescribing treatment and medication to their patients, they need to be able to actively listen and take in the information that their patients are providing them with along with being able to effectively communicate and provide instruction to patients.
In addition to communicating with patients, nurse practitioners will need to be able to effectively communicate with other healthcare professionals including nurses, CNAs, doctors, and specialists. More often than not, patient care is provided by a team involving a range of different healthcare providers and good communication between everybody on that team, including the nurse practitioners, is essential to ensure that the patient enjoys the best outcome.
Compassion and Empathy:
All nurses need to be compassionate and empathetic towards their patients. The ability to empathize with patients is one that continues all the way through the nursing career no matter how advanced the roles that you work in become. One of the key qualities that will set a good nurse practitioner apart from the rest is their ability to put themselves in the shoes of their patients. Nurse practitioners need to be able to imagine how their patient and their loved ones must be feeling at the time in order to come up with the best course of action for their care and help them feel safe, understood and heard during a time when they might be feeling in pain, frightened or frustrated.
Critical thinking skills are important at all levels of nursing, and especially crucial for the role of a nurse practitioner. Since nurse practitioners will typically have more responsibility and autonomy compared to registered nurses, their decisions will often carry more weight, so good critical thinking skills and the ability to think critically and stay calm even when under pressure becomes even more important. Nurse practitioners might often be found working in high-stress environments such as the ER, urgent care centers or the ICU. In these environments in particular, things can change very quickly and the ability to think critically is even more important.
As advanced practice registered nurses with a high level of autonomy, authority and responsibilities in their role, nurse practitioners need to be professionals who take decision-making very seriously. As a nurse practitioner, you will often be tasked with making decisions that will need to be in the best interests of your patients. Nurse practitioners will often need to make decisions regarding patient care such as prescribing medication or recommending a course of treatment that will impact the patient in a significant way, so excellent decision-making skills are an essential to working successfully in this role.
Attention to Detail:
Strong attention to detail is a crucial skill for nurses working at any level. But much like decision-making skills, nurse practitioners will often need to be even more vigilant when it comes to paying attention to the small details as there is more responsibility riding on their shoulders. Unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners are often solely responsible for diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing treatments and medications, meaning that there is often going to be more at stake if details are overlooked or misinterpreted.
Ability to Adapt:
In many of the environments that nurse practitioners work in, no two days are going to be the same. For many nurses and nurse practitioners, this means that they need to be people who welcome change and are highly adaptable to situations that might be completely different within minutes or even seconds. When working with healthcare patients, anything could happen at any moment and nurse practitioners need to be able to calmly adapt to changing situations, keep a level head and make the best decisions based on the information that they have. In addition to this, working as a nurse practitioner will often mean keeping up to date and adapting to the regular changes that occur as a normal part of working in healthcare including the discovery of new diseases and conditions, new treatment developments, new equipment and new ways to treat patients.
Dedication to Learning:
Finally, nurse practitioners need to be people who are committed to always learning more. When applying for a nurse practitioner training program, students who can demonstrate their desire to learn more and stay up to date with all the latest information from nursing and healthcare are often the first to be accepted onto the program. The healthcare industry is forever changing with new policies, treatments, technologies, and even the development of new diseases like COVID-19 that nurse practitioners need to be constantly prepared for. In order to do this, they will need to be ready to dedicate a portion of their time to learning new things, analyzing the latest research and taking every opportunity to broaden their knowledge whether that involves taking additional training programs in specialty areas or working to build their professional network of people that they can learn more from.
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses that are currently in very high demand in the healthcare industry. For nurses with the right set of skills, this can be an incredibly rewarding and lucrative career option to consider.