Nursing is a difficult career path and may not be nearly as recognized as it deserves, but for those that turn to a career in nursing and become a nurse practitioner will find the work is rewarding in other ways. Many nurse practitioners are driven by their passion to help others in any means possible, but the job does have strict job requirements and requires certain skills.
The career outlook for nurse practitioners is encouraging with an expected growth rate of about 45% between 2020 and 2030. This said, the work of a nurse practitioner is challenging. From education to soft skills, there are some nursing skills that every practitioner must have if they want to have a successful and enjoyable career.
Along with a master’s degree in nursing and other education and experience requirements, here are some more skills you need to master as a nurse practitioner.
1. Strong Communication
As a nurse practitioner, you have the medical knowledge needed to understand and diagnose a lot of health problems, but your patients don’t. Part of being a good nurse practitioner is being able to explain and break down complicated diagnoses into simple language that any patient can understand.
Additionally, you need to ensure your patient feels understood. Listen to them and take their questions and concerns seriously. Something that may be an everyday occurrence for you is completely new and possibly scary for them.
Having strong communication skills doesn’t just mean you know how to express yourself well. It also means you know when and how to listen. Miscommunication can occur if you don’t take the time to sit and listen to your patient, so be sure to let them speak and communicate their concerns with you before diving into your diagnosis.
2. Clinical Skills
During school, it’s likely that you completed a few clinical programs or even found an internship to help you gain experience in the field of nursing. Even once you’ve graduated with your degree and found a job as a nurse practitioner, however, it’s important to continue growing and expanding on your clinical skills.
Taking time between school and work to improve your clinical skills and gain more experience may seem like a waste of time, but it can provide an important experience that will later help you land a good job with better opportunities than you would have had without the clinical experience.
3. Open Mindset
You never know what you’re going to face as a nurse practitioner. Every day will be different and if you don’t keep a flexible and open mindset, this can upset your work. Being able to take things as they come and think on your feet will help you in the long run.
Keeping an open mind can also help you diagnose a patient’s uncommon symptoms. If you’re too set in a routine, you may not catch a diagnosis as early on and your patient’s health may be affected.
As a nurse practitioner, you’re expected to make decisions and provide diagnoses every day. Sometimes, you may not feel confident in the process or you may not have any clue as to how to diagnose a patient, but it’s important that you sound confident when talking with a patient and their family.
Some situations may require you to ask for help from a fellow colleague, but this does not mean that you have no reason to be confident. Knowing that it’s time to ask for a second opinion is a wise thing to do and can save you from wasting time and prolonging a diagnosis.
Throughout any situation, it’s important you believe in yourself and present your thoughts in a confident manner so that your patients feel safe in your hands.
Life as a nurse practitioner is not always calm. You rarely follow the same routine day in and day out and sometimes, you may be faced with a particularly large and challenging problem. No matter what the situation, you need to remain patient and calm throughout it.
Whether you’re delivering bad news to a family or dealing with an unforeseen emergency, keeping your calm and remaining patient with those around you is vital to a patient’s health and care.
Your patients may become frustrated with you or their diagnosis, but you’ll need to remain patient and understanding with them. Even when you feel as though you are being treated unfairly, patience is of the utmost importance.
6. Organizational Skills
Nursing is a hectic career but being unorganized can create problems and confusion.
A good way to reduce confusion and keep your patients’ information organized is to create a system early on in your career. Looking through file organization methods and finding one that works for you can help you always know where to look for important files and resources when you need them.
You may decide to adapt your organizational method over time and that’s okay. Just make sure that you don’t further confuse yourself by changing up your relied upon method.
7. Time Management
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but not everyone manages these hours well. Time management is a vital skill for nurse practitioners and will ensure that you address important work in the most efficient order.
As you gain more experience as a nurse practitioner, you’ll develop your skills in time management more and more until you create a system you can rely on. Doing things such as going to the bathroom while your patient is changing and working on your clinical notes between appointments will save you a few minutes that add up at the end of the day.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Becoming a nurse practitioner won’t be easy and you’ll be expected to demonstrate a lot of soft skills along with your education and hands-on experience. While you can read through the NONPF’s list of core competencies for nurse practitioners, it’s not necessarily required.
As you complete your schooling and start working, you’ll expand both your soft and hard skills. Asking colleagues for advice is also a good idea. While you won’t master all the necessary skills by the end of your first day, being willing to learn and grow is a great first step towards becoming a great nurse practitioner.