Do you have the right skills to become a nurse practitioner?

Do you have the right skills to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurses are in high demand at the moment and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for nurses to grow almost 10% over the coming years and that’s not even considering nursing specializations that are growing at a faster rate. Though some nursing specialties are growing even faster. For example, demand for family nurse practitioners will rise roughly 25% in the same period. The question is: do you have the right skills to become a nurse practitioner? Let’s take a look at some of the main skills and aptitudes you’ll need to succeed in the field.

Communication Skills

Nurses at all levels must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. You must be able to understand a doctor or medical specialist’s orders and communicate this to patients. Everyone from staff to patient’s caregivers must understand the content of your message and all of this needs to be done with compassion and tact.

There are also times when you might have to deliver difficult news either to patients or their families. You need to be great at vulgarization so you can explain complex conditions and treatments to people of all ages. You also have to communicate in a way that is reassuring, yet realistic.

However, listening skills are just as important in this field. You get to spend a lot of time with patients, even more than doctors. They may tell you things that the doctor needs to know and that could be essential for treatment or diagnostics.

It is also part of your job to advocate for the patient. You will need to ensure that they get the care they need and understand how to take care of themselves. You must also be able to communicate and collaborate effectively with a patient’s caregiver if you want to minimize the odds of them returning to the hospital.


Nurses get in the field with the first goal of helping the sick and injured. You’ll need to have the compassion needed to give them the best care possible. However, there also needs to be a balance or the emotional load might become too much for you. You should have empathy for their pain and condition without internalizing it. You must understand their suffering while seeking to alleviate it.

This is why this might not be a great job for overly sensitive people. Depending on where you’re working, you might have to deal with losses every day, and you need to be able to separate yourself from your work. So, if you thought that nursing would be the perfect position for you because of your caring heart, you need to also know if you have the mental fortitude needed to deal with tragedy consistently.

Not only that, but you might have to console patients and their families, and this is the last moment they want to see the despair in your eyes. You will need to be able to muster the strength necessary to lift them and show them the brighter side. This is why you need to evaluate how much you can handle before you assume you’re the right fit for the job.

Collaborative Skills

While nurse practitioners may run their practice, they rarely work alone. There may be nurses and physician assistants working for you, whether you work with a doctor or other NPs in a clinic. Expect to work with hospital staff and specialists to provide quality healthcare to your patients.

This is why you need to see yourself as part of a team, though you’re an invaluable team member. This is why many nursing programs will ask candidates about their willingness to work with others and how they’ve worked in a group to solve problems. You also have to be prepared to work with people from different departments, from foodservice to maintenance, and have a cordial relationship with them if you want things to get done.

Clinical Skills

Clinical skills are essential if you’re going to work in today’s healthcare field. Nurses who are well-formed in the latest procedures and can demonstrate it will always be able to find a job in this industry. This is especially important in fields like family nursing, for instance.

Fortunately, there are several programs available to teach you what you need to know.  Check out this piece by Marymount on how to become a family nurse practitioner. It explains the process of becoming a family nurse practitioner from earning a master’s degree to earning certification as an FNP to getting your FNP license. They also outline the typical job responsibilities for an FNP.

Having strong clinical skills can give you the confidence you need to work independently and without second-guessing yourself. You’ll also be better prepared to face a critical situation without hesitation, and this can save a patient’s life. To make sure you’re prepared for emergency situations, it’s a good idea to earn a certificate in first-aid and learn how to provide immediate assistance to the person in need.

Attention to Detail

Sometimes the correct diagnosis hinges on one mentioned symptom or odd occurrence. If you pay attention to detail, you may notice things that a hurried doctor does not. This is why attention to detail is essential to providing proper care to your patients. On the other hand, small mistakes can have tragic results.

Paying attention to detail is also critical to day to day work in a medical facility. You will need to ensure that insurance forms and healthcare records are fully and completely filled out, for instance. You will also need to follow up on prescriptions and tests to make certain that they’re done for the patient.

Nurses practitioners need to be able to monitor the state of patients. They need to be able to see if a patient’s condition is getting better or worse. Patients might be sending small signals that the average person would assume is minor. Nurse practitioners have to be able to pick these up not just for one patient but for all the patients that are under their care.


Nurse practitioners also need to be flexible. As an NP, you’ll be dealing with patients of all ages. They may have different backgrounds and personalities, and each has their own unique needs at that moment. You must be able to work with all of them and provide the assistance that they need.

Nurse practitioners need to be flexible in other regards, as well. They might be asked to work long hours and be flexible when managing their personal life so that they can maintain their work-life balance. Fail to do this, and you’re at risk of burning out.

Some nurses take flexibility to the next level and work a variety of shifts. Being able to adapt to a weekend or evening schedule may allow you to better serve your patients or earn a higher paycheck.

Being flexible could also allow you to pivot into other areas which will keep things interesting and allow you to add some feathers to your cap. Start young and you could end up becoming a super nurse by the end of your career or even move into fields like advocacy, teaching, or public service.

Time Management Skills

Time management is important in many jobs, but it is imperative for family nurse practitioners. You’re expected to maintain a schedule, seeing as many patients as possible while giving them as much time as you can in face to face meetings.

You need to fill in the gaps in your schedule with productive work so that you aren’t working late every day. More importantly, poor time management skills on the part of an NP can create problems for the rest of the team. Having excellent organizational skills from scheduling meetings to managing electronic medical records or EMR is a bonus.


Nursing is definitely not a career for the pessimistic. You will need to be able to attend to each and every one of your patients the same way, no matter how tough your day was so far. You need to have the same level of enthusiasm and energy you had at the start of the day. Nurses with an unshakable positive attitude are loved by their patients and the people around them

A Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Nursing school will teach you the clinical knowledge you need to start your job as well as provide a strong ethical framework that should guide your decision-making. However, that isn’t enough if you want to work in nursing.

Nursing technology is constantly changing the way nurses do their job. New medications, new medical procedures, and evolving best practices force nurses to continually learn, too. This is why nurses must commit to lifelong learning. You’ll do better in this profession if you dedicate yourself to continuing education on all fronts, whether or not you choose to enter a nursing specialty or become active in professional organizations.


Nurse practitioners are important additions to any healthcare team and play an essential role. While clinical skills are essential, any NP candidate must have other essential skills to succeed in this demanding career. Make sure that you look at the skills you already have, and know that you can always acquire those you‘re missing either now or on the floor.

The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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