If you’re thinking about advancing your nursing career with a graduate degree, you might want to consider the second-fastest growing occupation in the country: nurse practitioner (NP). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for NPs will grow by 52% over the next decade, adding more than 110,000 jobs.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NPs are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who diagnose and treat health conditions, while also focusing on disease prevention and health management. These nurses have earned at least their master's degree in nursing.
Being a nurse practitioner is a challenging, yet rewarding career that requires significant education and training. NPs have an impressive and wide-ranging skillset, including many soft-skills that are continuously honed. Here are a few of the top soft skills that NPs use every day:
The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills for an NP. Not only do they have to communicate with nurses, physicians and other colleagues, but they also have to be able to help patients – and sometimes their families – understand the treatment and care plans and follow recommendations.
Listening goes hand-in-hand with communication. According to Dr. Elizabeth Donathan, a practicing family nurse practitioner (FNP) and clinical instructor for graduate nursing programs at Herzing, a good listener helps the NP establish trust and build rapport with the patient.
“Truly listening to your patients helps you better understand their health barriers, allowing you to learn how you can help the patient, which ultimately improves your ability to achieve the desired outcome,” Dr. Donathan said. “Patients who don’t feel heard may not trust you or comply with your treatment program.”
Leadership skills are becoming even more important because APRNs are taking on increasing levels of responsibility as our healthcare system continues to evolve, according to the Journal of Healthcare Leadership. NPs often play a primary role in providing patient care, and they need to lead the nurses and other healthcare professionals who are supporting and executing their care plans. This means having confidence in their decisions as a provider while instilling confidence and trust in the care team. Nurse practitioners also often mentor and guide other nurses. Additionally, NPs act as leaders when providing patient care by advocating for, coaching and educating and initiating meaningful conversations with patients, according to research published in Nursing Open.
Compassion is a vital aspect of nursing. Without compassion, patients can feel like the provider doesn’t care or have the time to truly care for them, which can lead to a lack of trust or even non-compliance with the care plan.
Compassion is exhibited in several ways, including listening, asking questions and communicating sincerely, and it allows NPs to connect with and better understand their patients. When patients feel compassion from their providers, they’re more willing to open up, trust and follow the guidance of the NP, which can lead to improved health outcomes. According to Dr. Donathan, this is especially important for FNPs as they often provide care to patients throughout the course of their life, and a trusting, respectful relationship is beneficial to managing their health and improving health outcomes in the long term.
As with many healthcare careers, nurse practitioners need to remain poised during difficult and stressful situations. As leaders, nurse practitioners should maintain a professional demeanor and uphold ethical standards even during the most challenging of circumstances because other nurses and colleagues follow their example.
Interested in becoming a nurse practitioner?
To become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which can take anywhere from 16 to 32 months to complete depending on your prior education and NP concentration. In the program, you’ll learn and practice the skills needed to be an NP through online coursework and an in-person clinical placement, which Herzing can help you secure.
Herzing University also offers two specialized NP programs. The FNP program can be completed in as little as 20 months for RNs who already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). For RNs without a BSN, Herzing offers an RN to MSN-FNP pathway which can be completed in as few as 24 months.
Herzing’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) takes about the same time to complete as the FNP degree. For RNs who already have a BSN, the PMHNP can be completed in as little as 24 months. The RN to MSN-PMHNP pathway program, which is designed for RNs with an associate degree, can take as few as 24 months to finish.
Still not sure which MSN specialty is right for you? Take our quiz!