Good experience Health

Everything You Need to Know About the Nurse Practitioner Role

Written by Jimmy Rustling

Nurse practitioners are in high demand as healthcare professionals today. For registered nurses or people who are thinking about getting into a career in nursing, this might be an ideal role to consider. Nurse practitioners earn a generous salary that is higher than most other nurses and some other healthcare professionals. In addition, compared to registered nurses, they are offered a higher degree of authority, autonomy and responsibility in the work that they do. Nurse practitioners are authorized to do much more than registered nurses, including diagnosing conditions, prescribing medication, and referring their patients for treatment. In some states, they will be required to have these decisions signed off by a medical doctor, but the majority of states trust nurse practitioners to do this without authorization from anybody else.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

What exactly is a nurse practitioner? This role is an advanced type of nurse where professionals are expected to have qualified with a masters-level nursing degree such as the Texas Woman’s University’s online Master of Science in Nursing FNP program, which you can learn more about at the Texas Woman’s University website. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to first have qualified as, and gained experience in, the role of a registered nurse. Registered nurses need to undergo advanced training to be able to work in this role, along with passing additional licensing exams to permit them to practice in the role in their state. In the majority of healthcare settings, nurse practitioners are either primary or secondary healthcare providers. They typically focus their work on a certain population with various nurse practitioner roles and specialties to choose from including general family care, adult care, pediatric care and psychiatric care to name a few.

Role and Responsibilities:

Compared to registered nurses, the additional advanced training that nurse practitioners undergo will mean that they usually have many more responsibilities in comparison. In some states where the shortage of primary care physicians is having an impact on patient care, nurse practitioners are filling the gap, running their own clinics as they do not need the supervision or authorization to provide primary care to patients. Nurse practitioners will also be found working in a range of other healthcare settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, specialist care clinics, psychiatric hospitals and more.

How Nurse Practitioners are Impacting Healthcare:

Nurse practitioners are having a significant impact on the healthcare system in the US. Currently, they are some of the most in-demand healthcare providers due to the fact that there is a shortage of primary care physicians which nurse practitioners are working to mitigate. Some of the main ways that nurse practitioners are impacting the healthcare system today include:

Providing Quality Patient Care:

Studies have found that when it comes to delivering patient care, nurse practitioners can be expected to provide an equal standard of care to primary care doctors when it comes to patient satisfaction. Not only has this had a positive impact on patients themselves, but also on doctors who would otherwise struggle to expand their patient numbers during the shortage.

Offsetting the Shortage of Physicians:

With fewer medical students entering primary care, general internal medicine or family practice today, nurse practitioners are stepping in to offset this problem. The population in the US is aging and with more chronically ill people than before in need of care, nurse practitioner primary care training programs are going the opposite way and increasing in popularity. In various regions across the country, this is helping to ensure that patients have access to the care that they need despite lower numbers of doctors.

Expanding Retail Clinics:

Retail clinics are a healthcare option that have become more and more popular in recent years. These clinics are designed to provide same-day, urgent care for minor problems that patients can access when they are going about their day. You will usually find these clinics located in popular superstores such as Walmart and drugstores like Walgreens. They are often a convenient alternative for people who are out of town and need medical advice, or patients who are dealing with a minor problem that they want help with but does not warrant making an appointment with their doctor. Many of these services are run by nurse practitioners who are committed to expanding patient access to basic healthcare and advice.

Improving Healthcare Access:

Nurse practitioners are currently paving the way to providing better access to care for a wider number of patients, especially those who are located in rural and remote areas who may not have the same type of healthcare facilities and services that you would expect in the bigger towns and cities. In rural areas located in the states where nurse practitioners have the authority to run their own private practice without the need for supervision, this has allowed them to provide the local population with a better level of care.

Improving Care Quality:

The US is still falling behind other developed nations when it comes to delivering high-quality healthcare services. A Commonwealth Fund study found that in relation to the high cost of healthcare in the country, the US has the lowest performance when it comes to quality, coming in last in a ranking of eleven countries including the UK, Germany and Canada. Nurse practitioners are likely to help bring the US further up the ranking when it comes to patient care quality, offering better-quality, patient-centric healthcare and inspiring positive change. Many patients who are under the care of a nurse practitioner report higher satisfaction levels and studies show that these patients are more likely to enjoy fewer hospital readmissions, fewer unnecessary ER visits, and fewer preventable hospitalizations.

Skills You Need to Be a Good Nurse Practitioner:

If you are currently working as a registered nurse or aspire to be a nurse in the future, the role of a nurse practitioner might be one that appeals to you. If you are passionate about providing a high quality standard of healthcare and want a role where you can make a positive impact on your patients as much as possible, this could be the ideal role for you. There are many different training programs available including family nurse practitioner master’s degree programs and other courses that you can take to prepare yourself for this career after obtaining a master’s degree in nursing. However, it’s not all about the education. To succeed as a nurse practitioner, it’s also important to focus your time on building some of the most important nursing skills. These include:


As a nurse practitioner, you will be tasked with effectively communicating with both your patients and other healthcare professionals that make up the team you are a part of. Nurse practitioners are often one of the first healthcare professionals that a patient will see during a time where the patient might be scared, in pain, confused, or otherwise struggling. Effective communication is something that all nurses understand they need to work on every day on the job, and, as a nurse practitioner, communication becomes even more important when you are diagnosing conditions and prescribing medication and treatment to the patient. They will often be the professional to inform patients what is wrong and how they can help them to recover. Because of this, nurse practitioners need to be able to clearly communicate when it comes to explaining problems to patients and providing information about medications and treatments, how to use them safely, and how long the patient can expect it to take before they begin to feel better.

Critical Thinking:

Since nurse practitioners often have more authority and responsibility compared to registered nurses, it is typically even more important for them to be able to think critically, stay calm under pressure and make the right decision for the patient even in a stressful or traumatic situation. Nurse practitioners who are working in the ER or urgent care, for example, might sometimes be faced with decisions that carry a lot of weight for their patient, even to the point of being the difference between life or death. Because of this, any good nurse practitioner knows that one of the most important qualities that they can possess is the ability to make good decisions often under huge amounts of pressure.

Empathy and Compassion:

In order to build strong relationships with their patients and do their jobs effectively, it’s important for nurse practitioners to be able to put themselves in their patients’ shoes and have empathy regarding how the people that they are working with right now are feeling. Nurse practitioners are often one of the first healthcare professionals that a patient will speak to when they are going through a tough time with their health or have been injured or hurt, both of which can be very emotionally distressing situations. They need to have peace of mind that the person they are trusting with these problems is somebody who has empathy, compassion, and no judgement towards them and what they are going through. A good nurse practitioner is somebody who is able to completely empathize with, and has a lot of compassion for, their patients, even if they have never personally been in that same situation themselves.


Since nurse practitioners in many states are often left to run clinics and treat patients without supervision from a physician, it’s important that they are confident in themselves, what they do and their ability to make the right decision on behalf of their patients. A good nurse practitioner has put in the time and effort to make sure that they have gotten to a level of proficiency where they are fully confident in their knowledge and abilities. Being dedicated to staying up to date when it comes to the latest healthcare information and developments is key for all nurse practitioners since this industry is subject to constant change, research and discoveries that are always transforming the way that patient care is delivered. Nurse practitioners need to be committed to continuous learning to ensure that they are confident in being able to perform well in their role. They also need to have the confidence to ask for help or advice from the right person in a situation where this might be called for.

Strong Attention to Detail:

A strong attention to detail is a crucial skill for any nurse at any level. However, in this advanced role it is often even more important that a nurse practitioner is a highly meticulous professional. This is because of the higher level of responsibility that nurse practitioners have, especially when it comes to diagnosing patient conditions and choosing the right treatments and medications to prescribe to their patients. Nurse practitioners tend to have a lot more control over how patients are treated and because of this, it’s more important than ever to ensure that they notice all of the small details and get it right.


No matter the healthcare setting that a nurse practitioner is working in, there are never going to be two days that are completely the same. While working in a clinic or doctor’s office might not be quite as fast-paced as some other healthcare environments, any healthcare professional knows that there is no guarantee that things aren’t going to change rapidly. Complications with patients can arise at any moment and a good nurse practitioner needs to be able to adapt to these changing situations quickly and with confidence. On the bigger-picture side of things, nurse practitioners also need to be prepared to adapt to changes in healthcare. As we become more reliant on technology and science becomes more and more advanced, the healthcare industry is constantly being updated with new medications, treatments, and equipment that nurse practitioners need to be able to adapt to using on the job.

Today, nurse practitioners are quickly becoming some of the most important and in-demand professionals in the healthcare industry. Working as a nurse practitioner means more responsibility, career opportunities and a higher salary than a role as a registered nurse. Many of the skills that you will develop in nursing are necessary as a nurse practitioner at a higher level.

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.