What are Essential Nurse Practitioner Skills?

Essential Nurse Practitioner Skills
Essential Nurse Practitioner Skills

Patients and their families need and respect nurse practitioner skills now more than ever. The nursing profession as a whole has a well-earned reputation for not only compassion but competence and proficiency. Nurse practitioner skills include caring for people in an ambulatory setting either independently or in collaboration with a partnering physician. 

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse with a graduate degree in advanced practice nursing. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners describes nurse practitioners as individuals who:

  • Manage acute and chronic illness
  • Provide medical services to individuals, families, and groups
  • Promote disease prevention

Diagnosing and treating illness, performing exams, and helping manage a patient’s overall health are core nurse practitioner skills. They receive advanced training in pharmacology, physical assessment, and diagnosis.

Nurse practitioner skills enable nurses to serve as patients’ primary health providers. About 45% of nurse practitioners serve in this capacity, meaning the patients see them regularly, as they care for acute and chronic medical problems seen in an ambulatory setting.

Nurse practitioner skills can be broad and generalized, enabling nurses to go into family practice. Or they can be specialized, enabling nurses to serve a specific demographic, such as the aging population or women. Beyond clinical aptitude, nurse practitioner skills also include leadership abilities and analytical skills.

For many patients, nurse practitioners like FNPs and PMHNPs provide primary, emergency, and specialized health care—including diagnosis and treatment—across the lifespan.


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Nurse Practitioner Skills are in Demand

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2018 the average U.S. salary across 179,650 NPs was $110,030. BLS projects the job openings for nurse practitioners will grow 26 percent in the coming years. This growth rate is much faster than the average for most jobs.

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects about 16,900 openings to become available for nurse practitioners each year. Further, the growth of advanced practice nurses (141%) is projected to outpace the growth of physicians (21%) in the future. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) predicts that aging baby boomers will continue to drive the demand for NPs.

Patients appreciate nurse practitioner skills more than ever. A majority of NPs see 3 or more patients per hour. Patients make 1.06 billion visits to nurse practitioners each year, and most are extremely satisfied with the care they receive.

Forty-seven percent of nurse practitioners primarily work in collaboration with physicians. Twenty-seven percent work in hospitals. The remaining groups work in outpatient care centers, education, or the offices of other health practitioners.


General Nurse Practitioner Skills

Most nursing credentialing organizations consider the following nurse practitioner skills and criteria essential across the field, regardless of specialty or focus. 


Educational Prerequisites

Prerequisites to becoming a nurse practitioner are a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nursing. NPs must have a registered nursing (RN) license in the state where they practice. They must pass a national certification exam and must renew that certification periodically.

Most programs include classroom education and clinical experience. Courses cover such subjects as pathophysiology and advanced health assessment.


Necessary Skills

Necessary skills among nurse practitioners include:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Patient/family education and instruction
  • Treatment planning

After graduating and passing the NP certification, NPs in a clinical setting may order laboratory and radiologic testing, diagnose illness, and manage care. Additionally, nurse practitioners can prescribe medicine in all 50 states and may perform invasive procedures such as bone marrow biopsies or fine-needle aspiration.


Administrative and Communicative Nurse Practitioner Skills

Beyond clinical skills, nurse practitioner skills may include administrative skills. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) listed writing discharge orders, referring for consultations, and ordering lab tests among necessary skills.

Nurse practitioners also lead others in problem-solving, work collaboratively with others, and contribute to research.

Nurse practitioner skills across every specialty (some more than others) also encompass adept communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 12% of adults in the U.S. have proficient health literacy skills. To provide excellent care, NPs must communicate not only with their colleagues but with patients and their families.

Additionally, bilingual health care workers are in increasing demand.


Industry Standards

Finally, nurse practitioner skills cover nine areas of core competence, according to The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties:

  1. Scientific foundation—critically analyzing data
  2. Leadership—assuming leadership roles to advance change
  3. Quality—continuously improving the quality of clinical practice
  4. Practice inquiry—leadership in bringing new knowledge into practice
  5. Technology and information literacy—integrating appropriate technologies in health care
  6. Policy—understanding policy and practice
  7. Health delivery system—minimizing risk to patients
  8. Ethics—integrating and evaluating ethical principles
  9. Independent practice—functioning as a licensed practitioner and demonstrating accountability


Nurse Practitioner Skills by Specialty

While a generalized nurse practitioner may work in a broad area, such as family practice, others are more specialized. Nurse practitioner skills vary according to their patient areas. NPs may work with children in pediatrics, with the aged in geriatrics, or with patients with mental illness in an ambulatory setting.

Students exploring specialties at the beginning of their career should ask themselves what types of environments they will enjoy long-term. Some NPs practice in fast-paced environments or focus on a specific patient demographic. Note that a nurse practitioner may be certified in more than one specialty.

The majority of nurses who go into primary care, 65.4%, stay focused on some form of family care. Another 25.5% go into adult and geriatric care, 2.8% focus on women’s health, and 4.5% focus on pediatrics. About one-third of nurse practitioners provide specialty care.


Nurse Practitioner Skills for FNPs 

About 67% of nurse practitioners work in family care. As the name implies, a family nurse practitioner treats the individual and family through evidence-informed primary care.

Family nurse practitioner skills encompass all ages of patients. In some states, FNPs can open an independent practice. Their services include diagnosing, prescribing medication, advising preventative care, and wellness check-ups.

FNPs are the most common specialty among nurse practitioners. Family nurse practitioners have a median income of $114,000


Your Next Step in Nursing

Are you ready for your next step in advancing your nursing career? Learn more about starting your educational pathway with a nurse practitioner degree from Marymount University Online.


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