Nurse Practitioners (NPs) have always been a dynamic force in health care. The importance of their roles became more pronounced over the past year, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the world. The unwavering dedication and fearlessness of advanced practice nurses helped hospitals and medical centers everywhere meet all challenges that emerged in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Also obvious was the high demand for family nurse practitioners (FNPs), whose skills have traditionally helped patients from infancy through adulthood. The broad range of nurse practitioner skills helped alleviate a nationwide physician shortage by “filling the gap” to meet the needs of an increasing number of patients.
FNPs continue to shape the future of health care. What the changing environment needs, however, are new skills for success as a Nurse Practitioner. Find out if you have what it takes.
Assessment and Diagnosis
FNPs must have the skills to assess, diagnose, and treat patients of all ages. Many states granted NPs full practice authority as the need for health care providers rose during the pandemic allowing them to work within the full extent of their license. In some states, NPs are currently able to order tests and medications that were previously not allowed. There are 24 states that allow NPs to assess, diagnose, interpret tests, and prescribe medications independently. That leaves 26 states with reduced or restricted authority. See where your state ranks. The flexibility of NPs to accommodate and fulfill these new responsibilities has resulted in an expanding workforce that maximizes health care delivery. Although these changes may be temporary, the opportunity has added to the growing list of nurse practitioner skills.
NPs also have the power to shape future health care initiatives. Advocating for a permanent expansion of licensure through participation on policy boards is one way to accomplish this. The benefits of broadening the scope of practice for NPs affect the entire nursing profession. Multiple studies show how RNs who become NPs provide cost-effective, high-quality, patient-centered care resulting in happy and healthy patients. As more states change their laws to broaden the scope of practice for NPs, assessment and diagnosis will only grow in importance as essential nurse practitioner skills.
Working Independently and Entrepreneurialism
Self-motivation, resourcefulness, leadership, confidence, and the ability to problem-solve are nurse practitioner skills acquired over time. Once mastered, many nurses are ready to pursue another career goal. Although NPs continue to thrive in areas like primary care offices, urgent cares, emergency rooms and nursing homes, their leadership skills and medical privileges enable them to work autonomously and independently. This has led many NPs to seek entrepreneurial opportunities. For some nurses, being able to leave the bedside and become an independent practitioner is a lucrative and enticing path to advance their practice. Here are some new and innovative NP roles growing in popularity:
- IV hydration clinics: This quickly expanding market offers IV replenishment as immunity boosters, anti-aging rejuvenation, sports performance formulas, and post-op recovery support.
- Concierge nursing: A business that allows NPs to hire RNs to deliver elite care in the home, based on the patient’s individual needs and requests.
- Integrative Health: Offers the ability to practice holistic care through activities like mindfulness, acupuncture, and herbal remedies.
- Chronic care management. The 2015 change in chronic care management for Medicare patients makes this an attractive practice for many NPs.
- Content writing: As the need for credible online content multiplies, so do nurse-led content writing opportunities.
- Mental wellness coaching: Working directly with patients endorsing health, providing general support, and helping develop empowerment.
- Retail medical clinics. Found in grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores, NPs provide acute care keeping people out of emergency departments.
Many NPs don’t have a business plan formulated when they graduate, but the increasing options for being a nurse entrepreneur make it a feasible consideration. Determination paired with the skills to work autonomously make NPs great business owners.
Leadership Skills and Advanced Learning
By nature, most nurses possess strong leadership abilities which is an important skill to add to the NP’s repertoire. Delivering evidence-based care proves that NPs are leaders in health care, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. Therefore, staying apprised of the most current research and data-driven practices is essential. NPs should also cultivate the habit of continually seeking out learning opportunities. Rapidly changing information on the pandemic, for example, drives NPs to evaluate new data regularly.
NPs can enhance their leadership skills by:
- Attending local, regional and national conferences.
- Participating in continuing education events.
- Becoming adjunct nursing instructors.
- Earning certifications in their specialty areas (diabetes, nutrition, genetics).
- Engaging in research projects.
- Performing TED talks.
- Volunteering for non-profit organizations (Doctors Without Borders, Operation Smile, Mercy Ships).
Communication in a Virtual Environment
Nurse practitioners are known for being caring and compassionate communicators. They make meaningful connections with their patients through verbal and nonverbal communication. Their empathy and patience allow people to speak freely and honestly about their symptoms, aiding in the speed and accuracy of diagnosis. Covid-19 left many people quarantined at home with very little access to medical care. However, the development of software programs that support virtual home visits has been instrumental in helping NPs correspond with their patients. The ability to use telemedicine to effectively communicate with people has been a crucial nurse practitioner skill since the beginning of Covid-19. From prevention to treatment, the ability to deliver reliable and clear information to patients in a virtual environment is indispensable. NP’s can use telemedicine to connect with patients through these three modalities:
- Synchronous: Using a smartphone, computer or tablet to conduct the visit.
- Asynchronous: Sharing medical information such as bloodwork, imaging and communication through patient portals.
- Remote patient monitoring: Transmitting measurements like vital signs, weight and blood sugar to the provider from a distance.
It is especially helpful when the software system makes information available in the patient’s native language. This technology assists NPs in overcoming language barriers, helping those with diverse backgrounds to feel informed and empowered. Regardless of the platform’s language options, the NP’s ability to communicate with their patients and provide excellent patient care through telemedicine is important. In fact, some people prefer virtual visits to in-person ones. Mitigating hurdles such as lack of transportation, immobility and low socioeconomic status have contributed to many people wanting to stay home. One study suggests that effective communication through telemedicine may be the wave of the future, even without the threat of covid-19, making this an essential skill for NPs.
Empathy and Active Listening
For successful Nurse Practitioners, the importance of empathy as an important communication skill cannot be underestimated. It refers to their ability to understand a patient's personal experience. This doesn't imply bonding, but includes emotional, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions. Studies show that health professionals with high levels of empathy operate more efficiently while fulfilling their role in eliciting therapeutic change.
An empathetic Nurse Practitioner finds it easier to comprehend the needs of a patient. This, in turn, makes the patient feel safe enough to express their health concerns. Empathy has also been shown to strengthen the development and improvement of a therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient.
Another important quality is active listening, which helps a successful Nurse Practitioner convey a sense of respect for a patient while building trust. A listener can be generally categorized into a non-listener, marginal listener, evaluative listener, or active listener, depending upon the depth of concentration and sensitivity. Advancing beyond the first category leads to an increase in trust and effective communication, making active listening the highest and most effective level of communication.
Active listening places Nurse Practitioners in the role of a trusted intermediary. This enables the sharing of knowledge, and the creation of a viable, more effective care plan by reducing the possibility of error.
Transitioning from RN to Family Nurse Practitioner
Being a conscientious and problem-solving RN is an excellent foundation for becoming an accomplished NP. Having a background rooted in the foundational principles of nursing is an invaluable tool for success. Using the nursing process, here are some new skills you can look forward to once you transition from RN to an FNP.
- Assessment: Advanced health assessment is a part of the BSN to FNP curriculum providing broad and comprehensive knowledge on physiological, psychological, sociocultural, spiritual, economic and lifestyle factors affecting the patient. The ability to order blood work, imaging and other tests grant the FNP the ability to collect and analyze data effectively.
- Diagnosis: Once all the data has been analyzed, FNPs can diagnose acute and chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, infections, injuries and mental health issues.
- Planning: After diagnosis, the FNP has prescriptive authority to prescribe and manage medications. They also provide education on disease prevention, health promotion and healthy lifestyle choices. Referring and collaborating with specialty providers leads to a cohesive and inclusive care plan.
- Leadership and Delegation: FNPs create a comfortable workplace for the delegation of tasks and responsibilities. By placing orders for follow-up visits and blood work, communicating via patient portals and consulting with outside providers, FNPs lead a team effort in the successful care of their patients.
- Evaluation: FNPs use interpersonal and clinical skills to continuously evaluate, adjust and reimplement new plans, building credibility and trust with patients and their families. Increased patient satisfaction results in greater compliance and better disease management.
Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Nurse Practitioner?
It’s an exciting time to be an NP. Today, necessary nurse practitioner skills include increased authority to assess and diagnose, entrepreneurialism and the ability to work independently, leadership through advanced learning, outstanding communication in a virtual setting, and being an empathetic listener. NPs also continue to deliver streamlined, holistic and patient-centered care. If you believe you may have what it takes to be an NP, hear why other nurses chose Carson-Newman and its Christian-based values to help them prepare for a rewarding career as an FNP.
To get started, simply fill out our FNP Program Guide and let Carson-Newman help you earn an advanced degree as a family nurse practitioner. You can also schedule an appointment with an enrollment advisor to get answers to any questions you may have.