The best nurse practitioner qualities start with you—and these traits can be a strong indicator of success in a field that continues to show one of the brightest outlooks in the country.
In fact, the role of nurse practitioner (NP) landed among the Top 5 Best Jobs in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings, and also showed gains on the associated Best Health Care Jobs and Best STEM Jobs rankings.
With widespread interest in nurse practitioners growing year after year, what does it take to be effective in this role?
Today, we’ll explore the best nurse practitioner qualities and dive into how these seven traits can make you more effective as an NP.
What is the Role of a Nurse Practitioner?
Before we discuss best nurse practitioner qualities, let’s start with an overview of what the role of a nurse practitioner entails.
Nurse practitioners are classified as a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and have obtained a graduate-level degree in nursing. As an APRN, nurse practitioners are licensed and possess the clinical knowledge and skills needed to treat patients experiencing complex healthcare needs.
An NP’s scope of responsibilities and level of authority depends on each state, but many operate independently and share similar duties to physicians.
NPs may choose specializations (such as family practice or adult-gerontology) and can work in a variety of healthcare environments. They meet with patients individually and typically perform tasks such as:
- Building rapport with patients to gather information (e.g. medical history)
- Assessing and diagnosing medical conditions
- Making treatment recommendations, which may include prescribing medications
- Offering guidelines to regulate chronic conditions, such as heart disease
The nurse practitioner role tends to allow for a healthy work-life balance. Most NPs (57.4%) see at least three patients per hour, and many are in control of their daily schedules, which leads to a more regulated routine.
The role of the nurse practitioner is one of the fastest-growing in the country. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, projects a 26% growth in available nurse practitioner jobs–equivalent to more than 60,000 new positions–by the year 2028.
Let’s take a closer look at the best nurse practitioner qualities to find success in this booming role.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #1 Preparation
One of the best nurse practitioner qualities that will set you up for success is preparation. This encompasses both clinical and professional preparation. Although you’ll still have to adapt to challenges on the job, you can develop your level of preparedness as you embark on your journey as an NP.
NPs undergo extensive preparation to fulfill basic requirements of their role, from graduate-level courses to clinical rotations, to a licensure exam. All of these serve as resources to help you build your knowledge-base, preparing you for the future.
Why is Preparation Important?
Preparation is among our best nurse practitioner qualities because it goes beyond meeting the mandated degree or licensure requirements. Having a ready-to-act mindset is something you can cultivate. In fact, much of your preparation is rooted in your own resourcefulness and personal attitude.
As an NP, you will need to tackle a variety of situations. For example, are you prepared to evaluate complex information? Can you encourage a patient to take proactive steps to manage a medical condition? Are you equipped to lead a team of nursing staff? These are just some ways preparation will help you excel as a nurse practitioner.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #2 Analytical Skills
One of the best nurse practitioner qualities is analytical skills. The ability to analyze is something we’re all born with and it can be honed over time.
MSN students sharpen their analytical skills through the rigors of academia, clinical didactics, and structured guidance, as they prepare to become nurse practitioners.
Why are Analytical Skills Important?
Analytical skills are among our best nurse practitioner qualities as this helps you absorb new information. The ability to analyze also promotes problem-solving, which is critical in the role as an NP. As patient scenarios unfold requiring complex diagnosis and treatment, strong analytical abilities help you provide the best patient care possible.
NPs are responsible for ordering and interpreting labs and tests, so being able to understand the meaning behind findings is also crucial. Treatment plans have multiple points of reevaluation as well. Analytical skills help NPs assess patient progress to determine if the current care plan is as effective as it should be.
To stay at the forefront of the field, nurse practitioners must always embody an analytical mindset. Even in practice, NPs are required to complete continuing education courses to renew their licenses. In Spring Arbor’s home state of Michigan, licensure requirements mandate nurse practitioners to complete 25 continuing education hours every two years to be eligible for renewal.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #3 Leadership
In addition to strong analytical skills, the ability to lead is among best nurse practitioner qualities. Leadership is a skill that can be developed, practiced, and coached by those dedicated to learning over a span of time.
Why is Leadership Important?
Leadership in nursing has been linked to positive patient outcomes. As an APRN, nurse practitioners are equipped with a graduate-level education, advanced clinical knowledge, and complex decision-making skills. NPs offer a depth of expertise that promotes healthcare team effectiveness.
In their advanced clinical roles, NPs are expected to demonstrate leadership competencies. They often collaborate with physicians, specialists, and internal and external teams to deliver comprehensive patient care.
A recent study examined two types of leadership within the APRN framework: patient‐focused leadership and organization and system‐focused leadership.
Patient-focused leadership consists of NP contribution to “improving the care environment for patients and families.” This type of leadership includes:
- Patient advocacy
- Education and coaching
- Meaningful communication
- Patient-centered care
Organization and system-focused leadership encompasses how NPs positively influence “nurses, other healthcare providers, organizations, and the healthcare system.” NPs lead in this context by providing:
- Team collaboration
- Clinical expertise
- Leadership on committees
- Improved quality care
- Effective communication
As the healthcare industry grows and greater levels of autonomy are granted in more states, APRNs—including NPs—will continue finding opportunities in expanding leadership roles.
On the job, nurse practitioners also act as mentors for other members of the nursing team. They offer valuable guidance, support, and serve as models for the best nurse practitioner qualities.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #4 Tenacity
Tenacity made our list of best nurse practitioner qualities, though this characteristic is not foreign to most healthcare professionals. In order to thrive among today’s ever-changing healthcare dynamics, NPs must serve as the embodiment of perseverance.
Tenacity can be defined as determination coupled with resolve. It’s a characteristic of grit, which affects your ability to achieve your goals more than talent or IQ.
Why is Tenacity Important?
One of the biggest challenges within patient care is that there are no clear-cut solutions to medical problems. Conditions overlap, medications can create interactions, and every patient carries a unique medical history. As a nurse practitioner, patients will look to you to help solve complex health issues that they don’t fully understand.
To serve their patients, many NPs—especially those in states without full practice authority—must find ways to creatively problem-solve without losing steam. NPs work within multifaceted healthcare systems and tenaciously work to promote the best care for their patients.
Whether it’s advocating for full practice authority or working with their patient’s insurance to deliver medication, effective nurse practitioners persevere.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #5 Communication
Ranking high among best nurse practitioner qualities is being able to communicate effectively. Strong communication skills embody active listening, interpersonal skills, and the ability to relay information to others.
Why is Communication Important?
Nurse practitioners are an important voice. They facilitate conversations with patients about health matters, while also promoting patient education. NPs work within an informational framework so patients can take measures to improve their health conditions. This could be in the form of preventative care or proactively promoting long-term care.
Patients often have many questions about treatment and family members may be involved. NPs must be able to clearly communicate care and address concerns from all sides.
In addition to working effectively with patients and families, nurse practitioners also serve as a conduit between physicians and other nursing staff. NPs must be able to communicate with their colleagues, both verbally and in written form, to promote continuity of care.
With healthcare being so fast-paced, strong communication skills are essential to making sure quality care sustains, especially during points of transition.
Nurse practitioners also communicate patient needs to physicians and other staff—they act as advocates on their patient’s behalf and, in turn, are valued as one of the most trusted professions nationwide.
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #6 Compassion
Many best nurse practitioner qualities are aligned with nursing characteristics, such as compassion. Nurses already have an ethical commitment to show compassion, since a lack of it can “lead to patients feeling devalued.”
In addition to it being a part of their duty, compassion often comes naturally to those who are called to the nursing profession.
Why is Compassion Important?
As a nurse practitioner, compassion is essential during patient interactions. It allows you to empathize, connect with your patients, and establish trust. Many NPs develop long-term relationships with their patients, especially those who specialize in family practice (FNPs) since they can treat across the lifespan.
For NPs who are primary care providers, building rapport with patients helps promote quality care. Patients who feel that they can trust their provider are more likely to share information and follow through on treatment regimens.
Compassion can take many forms: it might involve listening carefully to a patient’s concerns about a test or procedure. It might also involve understanding a patient’s resistance to treatment and asking questions to gain their buy-in.
In turn, compassion acts as a bridge between the patient and the provider. It establishes the forefront of initial trust and helps enable clarity to improve quality of care.
Another way NPs show compassion is through empathetic listening. In a study published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, a survey of American nurses noted that attentiveness and listening were some of the most frequent actions that created a “caring presence... which is part of developing a provider-patient relationship.”
Best Nurse Practitioner Qualities: #7 Adaptability
Adaptability is among best nurse practitioner qualities due to the unpredictable nature of healthcare. Although nurse practitioners enjoy more work-life balance than they did as RNs, the need to be flexible never disappears, especially in the medical field.
Why is Adaptability Important?
From working with new patients to learning new medical procedures, the most effective NPs know how to pivot on the job. Being open-minded helps you stay ahead of ever-changing processes in the healthcare industry. Adaptability also helps you apply your knowledge to new environments and patient scenarios.
NPs acting as primary care providers must take new information in stride and make adjustments to care as needed. Treatment plans undergo routine assessment; depending on how the patient responds, NPs may need to change course to make sure care is effective.
Nurse practitioners following a holistic care approach are also familiar with the need to be flexible. Holistic health care embodies the philosophy that patient care should be centered around the mind/body/soul—that these areas are all connected and influence each other.
An NP following holistic care promotes overall wellbeing and does not just focus on one aspect (e.g. the symptom). This is a highly individualistic approach and requires the ability to cater treatment to the specific needs of each patient. Here, adaptability plays a major part in being able to deliver effective holistic care.
Be Your Best at Spring Arbor University
Students in our online MSN program can graduate confident they will embody these best nurse practitioner qualities. With high pass rates (88%) for first-time test takers of licensure exams, our MSN graduates are prepared to succeed as NPs in the real-world.
Spring Arbor University’s online MSN program also offers flexible learning for today’s busy nurses.
As an online MSN student, you can join a caring community, be a part of inspiring outcomes, and grow through an education rooted in Christ-centered philosophy.
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