Being a nurse means working in one of the most fast-paced and demanding careers in the world. But nurses who love what they do say that it’s because it’s a hugely rewarding and satisfying line of work. As a career path, nursing is expected to see a huge amount of growth over the next decade. Not only are we currently experiencing quite a severe nursing shortage, but the COVID-19 pandemic this year has highlighted just how much trouble the healthcare system will be in if the demand for new nurses and nurse practitioners is not met quickly.
For those who want to pursue a career in nursing or nurses who are looking to advance their careers, there has never been a better time than the present to take advantage of the high level of job demand and the millions of new nursing positions that are set to become available in the near future. Nurse practitioners are more essential than ever to fill the gap caused by the shortage of primary care physicians. These key health professionals enjoy more independence and autonomy than registered nurses. In many states, they are able to run their own clinics, diagnose conditions, and prescribe medications to patients.
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to become a nurse and eventually a nurse practitioner, or are a registered nurse looking to move into this more advanced nursing career, these are some of the essential qualities and skills that you will need to succeed.
Excellent Communication Skills
As a nurse practitioner, you will need to be able to communicate effectively with your patients, even in situations where a patient might be feeling upset, unwell, or fearful. Nurse practitioners have excellent communication skills and a solid understanding of non-verbal communication, enabling them to help their patients and provide the best possible standard of care even when a patient might be struggling to verbalize what is wrong. Active listening skills and the ability to ask clarifying questions to figure out what a patient needs are key to succeeding as a nurse practitioner. Along with being good listeners, these professionals will also need to be able to communicate clearly to others, with both verbal and written communication.
You’ll be responsible for providing your patients with more information about their health and any health conditions that you are helping them manage. You’ll be providing patients with counseling regarding caring for their own health and wellbeing. Nurse practitioners are also often responsible for mentoring and training student and trainee nurses; another situation where excellent communication skills are absolutely essential in order to get the best results.
Critical Thinking Skills
If you’re already a registered nurse, you’ll know just how important it is for the professionals in this field to be able to make the best decisions on their feet. You need to know how to thrive when working under huge amounts of pressure and how to make sure that the stress doesn’t get to you and hinder your decision-making process. Even in highly stressful situations, nurse practitioners need to be able to stay calm, think clearly and critically, and make the best decision in the best interest of their patients. Along with being able to keep a level head in high-pressure situations, many nurse practitioners need to think critically when it comes to healthcare policymaking; something that these professionals are often highly involved in as a key advocate for their patients. Coupled with excellent communication skills, a nurse practitioner who can think critically will be able to come up with ideas that will successfully improve healthcare.
Empathy and Compassion for Others
A good nurse practitioner is somebody who has the ability to put themselves in their patient’s shoes. Being able to see things from your patient’s viewpoint and imagine how they are feeling and what they will need at that moment will help you to get better results from your work and build trusting relationships with your patients. Nurse practitioners need to be able to demonstrate to their patients that they are somebody who they can trust with their care. Being genuinely compassionate, having no judgment, and prioritizing the needs and the best interests of the patient are skills and qualities that come naturally to the best nurse practitioners.
You need to be able to completely empathize with patients who may be in pain and feeling scared and have empathy for their families and what they are going through too. Empathy and compassion are some of the major qualities that are required of nurses, and being able to demonstrate this in everything that you do will help you get further as a nurse practitioner. When applying to a nurse practitioner school, you may be asked to give an example of where you have demonstrated genuine empathy for a patient in your career in the past.
A High Level of Self-Confidence
Nurse practitioners are typically left to work independently with a lot of autonomy, so having a lot of self-confidence in their abilities is key. Nurse practitioners are committed to keeping their knowledge updated and current so that they can be sure that they always have the most current information and their skills are up to scratch. Being confident in your own skills and knowledge as a nurse practitioner is something that will typically come naturally with more practice and experience, but you can help yourself by dedicating your time to learning more and improving what you know on a regular basis. Along with confidence in their own abilities, a good nurse practitioner is confident that they will be able to ask for help from others in the event of not being sure. There’s no room for self-doubt for nurse practitioners who are often trusted to make key decisions for their patients and work independently.
High Ethical Standards
In most parts of the US, nurse practitioners are trusted to get on with the job on their own. Because of this, a good nurse practitioner needs to be somebody who holds themselves to the highest ethical standards. Doing everything with integrity and always doing the right thing regardless of the situation should be something that comes naturally to a good nurse practitioner. In your work, you will need to adhere to a framework of ethics in everything that you do, both inside and outside of the workplace. As a nurse practitioner, it’s not only important to hold yourself accountable to good ethical standards at all times, but you’ll need to be prepared to call out unethical behavior if you see it and strive for higher standards in your place of work, leading the way to providing the best standard of patient care. The most successful nurse practitioners are individuals who are highly committed to a humanitarian approach to their work and prioritize upholding the dignity of their patients.
Physical and Mental Strength
At every level of the nursing profession, nurses are required to stay physically and mentally strong in order to keep up with all of the demands of the job. Nurse practitioners may often find themselves in stressful and demanding situations, whether that involves being under a lot of mental pressure to make the right decisions for their patient, or a physically demanding situation when helping a patient out. Good nurse practitioners completely understand the importance of taking the time to look after themselves both physically and mentally to ensure that they’re able to keep up with their work and be successful. You will need to be dedicated to practicing the same advice that you give to your patients, whether that’s improving your lifestyle with diet and exercise or spending time on a regular basis to look after your mental health and destress. Being self-aware and in tune with your own needs so that you know when you need to take a break or get some support is crucial.
Committed to Learning
Any nurse knows that when it comes to education, it’s never a one-and-done deal in this career path. As a nurse practitioner, you will have typically obtained a lot of advanced training and qualifications to get here, but even with all those achievements, the best nurse practitioners know that there’s never going to be a day when they stop learning about their job. The healthcare industry is one of the most dynamic in the world and is often changing with new technological advances, new medical research, and new treatments that are introduced. As a nurse practitioner, you will need to commit to learning new things on a regular basis, whether it’s studying a new disease like the COVID-19 virus this year, learning how to administer new treatments to the patient with certain conditions, or mastering new technology and equipment introduced to your field of healthcare.
A good nurse practitioner isn’t ready to ever stop learning and embraces the constant change in the industry as a great opportunity to build new skills and expand their knowledge base.
A key nurse practitioner skill that goes hand in hand with a willingness to learn continuously is the ability to quickly adapt to new situations. While a career as a nurse practitioner has the option to be a little more predictable compared to working as a registered nurse, good nurse practitioners know that anything could happy when it comes to the medical field. Even nurse practitioners who run their own family clinics might be faced with sudden emergencies that will require them to think quickly and adapt. And, the fact that the healthcare industry is so dynamic with so many new things being introduced on a regular basis means that nurse practitioners are often faced with a lot of new things to get used to. Whether it’s new software for securing patient records, new equipment for diagnosing or treating certain conditions, or new healthcare policies and rules that affect nurse practitioners, being flexible in changing circumstances is a key skill that any nurse practitioner would struggle without.
Strong Leadership Skills
Nurse practitioners are not only responsible for patient care; they are often tasked with supervising and managing other healthcare professionals or mentoring student and trainee nurses on the job. For a successful nurse practitioner, it’s important to develop strong leadership skills, particularly in a clinic setting that is run by the nurse practitioner themselves. A good nurse practitioner is somebody who is skilled when it comes to motivating others and leading teams, helping people work well together, and commanding respect from others. If you aspire to be a nurse practitioner with your own clinic, you’ll also need to get to grips with the administration side of business leadership including hiring the right employees, scheduling, coming up with workplace policies, and more.
As a nurse, you will already know that there is no room for mistakes and errors in this profession. Nurse practitioners can’t afford to do half a job or make avoidable errors due to a lack of focus. A good nurse practitioner needs to be completely focused on the work that they are doing all the time, and avoid allowing themselves to become distracted. Somebody who is very meticulous about doing everything correctly and has a strong eye for detail will typically make a good nurse practitioner. This is especially true for nurse practitioners who work independently since there is more pressure on them to ensure that they are holding themselves accountable and that everything they do is done right.
With a shortage of both nurses and primary care physicians across the US, more nurse practitioners are needed to fill the gap and ensure that patients can continue to be provided with the best quality of care. Whether you are just starting out on your journey to become a nurse or are an experienced nurse looking to do more with your career, working as a nurse practitioner is an excellent career goal to have. To take advantage of the high salary, great job demand, autonomy, and respect that comes with being a nurse practitioner, it’s important to work on developing these key qualities and skills.