Essential Skills For Nurse Practitioners

Essential Skills For Nurse Practitioners

Taking care of patients requires the ability to offer compassionate care and express empathy while listening to their questions and concerns. This is considered a good bedside manner and can make a huge difference to the patient’s experience.

Nurse practitioners must be excellent listeners and good at asking the right questions to diagnose their patients and make them feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Here are some of the other skills that nurse practitioners need.

Critical thinking

While all nursing requires critical thinking, your skills in this area must expand to match your role as a nurse practitioner and the other duties you will be responsible for throughout the course of the workday. You must be able to think clearly so that you can diagnose and address patient needs as quickly as possible while not rushing too much at the same time.

Asking the right questions is an important part of critical thinking regardless of whether you are asking a patient about their symptoms or discussing an important matter with a colleague. Being open-minded when searching for solutions is important. Reading medical journals can help you develop your critical thinking skills. Attending seminars and conferences, or listening to lectures online, are additional methods that you can use to become a better critical thinker.

Effective communication

Excellent communication skills are essential for any nurse practitioner. Patients and their families need to have health matters discussed with them in a way that they can understand. Nurse practitioners must be good at communicating information to other workers at their healthcare facility or clinic. 

Written and verbal communication skills are very important. A lot of communication is done via the written word. This means knowing how to explain matters using clear, concise language. Being comfortable with public speaking is also helpful. This is another area where taking part in seminars and professional conferences can help a lot.

Delegating tasks and time management

Nurse practitioners need to be good at delegating tasks to their staff so that their facility runs more efficiently and there are fewer mistakes made. This means being clear about what needs to be done each day and what each team member should concentrate on. Good task delegation allows offices to see more patients and provide a higher level of care.

Good time management is important because patients get irritated when they have to wait longer than necessary to get care. The shorter the wait, the better. Scheduling visits and good task delegation will ensure that no one is left waiting for an excessive period of time. 

It is important not to think of time management as trying to get each patient out the door as quickly as possible no matter what. Good time management is using time wisely so that patients get a high level of care. 


Nurse practitioners must be adaptable. All nurses have to take on many different roles and work under varying conditions at times. 

Providing care for people of all ages is an example of being adaptable. Going from treating a 10-year-old to a geriatric patient in the span of an hour is something that a nurse practitioner at a clinic or hospital might face on any given day.


A nurse practitioner must collaborate with other medical professionals to provide ongoing treatment and care for patients. Nurse practitioners may send patients to other clinics and specialists for testing, a second opinion, surgery or other treatments.

Over the years, a nurse practitioner will work closely with others to manage and treat chronic conditions and combat other issues as they arise. These professionals may also collaborate with others to conduct research or spearhead task forces to help increase access to healthcare.


Working at a medical facility means working as part of a team. You will have a variety of staff members who you have to work with to provide a high level of care to your patients. As a member of a team, you will need to help out in other areas of your clinic when it is clear that extra assistance is required.

You will also need to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and use this knowledge to help you delegate tasks or help them improve in certain areas.

Clinical skills

Working in a clinical setting requires many different skills. Nurse practitioners need to be adept at asking the right questions to form an accurate diagnosis. They must also be able to recognize the symptoms of different common illnesses and conditions.

Multi-tasking is essential in a clinic. You might be seeing several patients in different rooms that you need to go back and forth between as your staff take care of tasks that do not require your skills. Effective task delegation and time management allow everyone to make the best use of their time and skills.

Honesty and integrity

Patients and their families need to know that they can trust their providers to always tell them the truth. Evasive answers make patients nervous, so it is important to explain matters as well as you can even if you don’t have all the information right away. Patients need to know that you are working to get answers. 

During times of medical difficulties, patients want definitive answers, and this is not always possible. For example, healing and recovery times can vary a lot. A nurse practitioner may give an average range for a recovery time, but the actual length may be shorter or longer based on how well the patient follows the instructions or takes charge of their health and finds ways to improve their lifestyle habits.

Reasonable levels of optimism

It is important for a nurse practitioner to be encouraging and help their patients maintain a good level of morale. When some patients hear that they have an illness, they can become extremely depressed or upset, even if it is a condition with a very high recovery rate. Nurse practitioners should do what they can to discourage irrational or extreme fears.

At the same time, nurses must avoid offering false hope to patients. While amazing recoveries from some serious illnesses occur and there are exceptions, nurse practitioners need to be honest about the outlook for patients diagnosed with serious or terminal illnesses. Encouraging patients to make the most of their life even if it is shortened is important.


Acting and appearing professional at all times is essential for a nurse practitioner. This means using common sense when it comes to your appearance and dress. You should maintain a neutral stance on any potentially triggering conversations or issues.

Refrain from expressing strong views that have little or nothing to do with the level of care you are offering. Politics, religion and other issues that people tend to have strong views on may come up, but you should steer the conversation in a different direction or find another way to put distance between yourself and the topic.

Sticking to your professional code of ethics is also important. You have a duty to provide care to people from all backgrounds. Some medical facilities do have policies that they don’t do certain types of treatments or procedures, but this does not mean that they can deny other services to anyone.

Competence and a drive to learn more

As a nurse practitioner, you need to know some advanced medical practices and how to diagnose many different illnesses. If you run into something that is beyond your professional knowledge, then you must admit this to yourself and take the steps to reach a solution or consult with another more experienced medical professional.

Nurse practitioners should always be looking for ways to improve their knowledge. Some of this will simply come with experience, and you will be able to gain a certain level of confidence and comfort when providing patients with care independently of an MD.

How to become a nurse practitioner

There are several types of degrees and paths you can take to become a nurse practitioner. If you already hold an RN license in good standing and want to advance your career by becoming a nurse practitioner, you need to consider what degree will let you achieve your ultimate career goals. For example, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) are two options for advanced nursing practice. 

Prospective students also might want to consider the MSN vs DNP salary ranges. Whilst salaries can be similar, the exact figures will depend on what position you have after graduation. With both degree programs offered by the University of Indianapolis, you will learn the advanced skills needed to offer patients a high level of care whichever path you choose. 

The MSN program takes around 32 months, whereas the DNP program varies in length based on your level of education. If you have a bachelor’s degree, it will take 10 semesters to achieve your doctoral degree, whereas if you have a master’s, it can be completed in just six semesters. 

The number of clinical hours required also varies with the degree program. For an MSN, you need around 750 clinical hours, whereas a DNP requires 1,250 hours. As you can see, a DNP student spends far more time in a clinical setting. The University of Indianapolis offers MSN and DNP programs that can be completed online except for the clinical requirements. 

MSN nurse practitioner programs can be completed in less time than a DNP. A DNP is a better option if you want to take on senior leadership roles in the future. If you want to be a nurse practitioner but do not see yourself pursuing a role as a professor or taking on an administrative role, then the MSN might suit your needs. You can always get a DNP later if you change your mind, but it takes less time to get a DNP right away if you ultimately want to get the highest degree in nursing you can.

Nursing leaders are in demand

One thing that must be considered is how many senior-level nurses are reaching retirement age. A doctoral degree offers the advantage of giving you more career options. You can take on a variety of administrative and leadership roles. There are also many teaching opportunities, and you may be asked to consult on curricula, contribute to papers, or take on research roles.

Nurse practitioners can help close the gaps in primary and preventive care availability. The lack of primary care providers is a major healthcare concern. With so many aging adults and better access to health insurance, there are more people seeking out care. Preventive care is also very important to overall health and helps to reduce healthcare costs.

Nurse practitioners can provide this valuable care and help people to avoid long wait times for appointments. Encouraging patients to take care of themselves and attend primary care visits is one of the many roles that nurse practitioners can play that helps everyone in the community.


Nurse practitioners need to have a lot of different skills to offer patients the care they expect and deserve. These skills take time to develop, and even if nurses know that they need to work on some of them, they can easily improve with practice and working with patients from many different backgrounds. They can also take advantage of the various opportunities for education that are available to them.

Now is a great time for experienced registered nurses to take the next step in their career and get an advanced degree leading to NP licensure.