A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

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A nurse uses a stethoscope to monitor a patient’s heart rate.

Nurse practitioners play a valuable role in helping health care facilities provide high-quality patient care. This role is projected to be in high demand for the next several years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 31% increase in the employment of nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists between 2016 and 2026 — substantially greater than the 7% projected increase for the average job. While this points to a robust job market for nursing professionals with an advanced level of education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or a post-master’s certificate, it doesn’t provide insight into what a day in the life of a nurse practitioner looks like.

The Fundamental Goals and Skills of a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) aim to coordinate care with the potential to improve patient outcomes. There is no universal way to achieve this goal. For instance, NPs can strive toward this goal independently or in collaboration with physicians, depending on their state of practice. They can also pursue this goal through fostering nurse-patient relationships, conducting research projects, or teaching nursing staff about new care procedures or policies.

The various approaches to achieving high-quality patient care demand that NPs possess a specific skill set. Some of the skills relate to the position’s inherent practice of patient engagement, such as interpersonal communication and compassion. NPs must also have fundamental soft skills, such as critical thinking, resourcefulness, and the ability to pay attention to detail. Those who have honed these skills are prepared to tackle the challenges that come their way.

A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner: What to Expect

No two days are alike for a nurse practitioner, but there are several basic duties that prospective NPs can anticipate recurring fairly regularly. For instance, nurse practitioners in most states commonly examine and observe patients, record patients’ medical histories, order and perform diagnostic tests, and create plans of care based on diagnostic analysis. They are also typically tasked with updating patient information with recent care data and writing reports based on assessments.

Nurse practitioners may educate patients on how to proactively take care of themselves through various tactics, such as healthy living strategies and illness management. Some may also conduct research on various care-related topics, sharing their findings with staff members. Along the way, they may be able to cultivate care-driven relationships with their regular patients.

How the Work Environment Can Dictate One’s Duties

The scope of what a nurse practitioner does depends on his or her state of practice. NPs who work in states that allow them to work independently have the authority to prescribe medication, order tests, and provide patient diagnoses. Some states, such as Illinois and New York, require NPs to collaborate with another health provider to administer patient care. Other states, such as Texas and California, require that NPs perform all of their work under the supervision of a provider.

A nurse practitioner’s specialty area also determines his or her job duties. For instance, an NP who has specialized training in anesthetics often works with surgical teams and patients to help minimize pain. An NP specializing in women’s health provides female patients help with issues relating to pregnancy, childbirth, post-natal care, and other health issues more commonly experienced by women.

Preparing for the Unexpected

While many procedures are considered routine, it’s wise for NPs to be prepared for the unexpected. A new patient or a sudden emergency can cause disruption, and if nurse practitioners are not ready to adapt to the situation, they will not be prepared to deliver optimal care. Nurse practitioners need interpersonal skills to be able to effectively connect with a wide variety of patient personalities. They must also be able to use their critical thinking and decision-making skills to deliver effective patient care in urgent and potentially chaotic situations.

How an Advanced Degree Can Help

Earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing with a post-master’s certificate, allows students to hone their skills to not only fulfill the general responsibilities of the position but also manage the unexpected issues that may disrupt their daily routines. An advanced degree, coupled with certification, can also help strengthen competencies that are important for career advancement into primary care or nursing specialties.

Ultimately, the combination of an advanced degree and a certificate can equip nurses with the skills and knowledge needed to deliver high-quality care to patients. Learn how Regis College’s online post-master’s certificate program can prepare you to make a difference in health care one day at a time.

Recommended Reading:
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Why Nursing Values and Beliefs Are Important to Achieving Career Success
How to Specialize in Nursing

Sources:
Akron Children’s Hospital, “A Day in the Life: Nurse Practitioners”
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Standards of Practice for Nurse Practitioners
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
Health Science Journal, “Nursing Documentation and Recording Systems of Nursing Care”
Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “Time and NP Practice: Naming, Claiming, and Explaining the Role of Nurse Practitioners”
Regis College, Online Post-Master’s Certificates