Essential Nurse Practitioner Skills

a Nurse Practitioner examining her patient
a Nurse Practitioner examining her patient

A long-term demand exists for nurse practitioners in primary and specialty care roles across the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 46% growth in nurse practitioner positions from 2021 to 2031. An estimated 112,700 new nurse practitioners will be needed to fill gaps left by an aging workforce and a shortage of primary care physicians.

Experienced nurses possess the foundational knowledge and experiences for career advancement. A graduate degree builds the nurse practitioner skills needed for success in clinical environments. It’s important to know what skills are essential to the profession as well as the high standards set for nursing education.

Overview of Nurse Practitioner Skills

Nurse practitioners are given full-practice authority - or practices without required supervision by physicians - in 26 states and Washington, DC. An additional 13 states authorized reduced-practice authority with one area of practice limited by physician supervision. The autonomy and responsibility bestowed upon nurse practitioners are possible because they possess advanced skills in the following areas.

Clinical Skills

Graduate nursing programs train registered nurses in advanced clinical skills for comprehensive patient care. The AANP found that 59% of nurse practitioners worked with three or more patients per hour of work. This patient volume requires a methodical but patient-focused approach to examinations and diagnostics.

Nurse practitioners conduct annual patient exams, educate patients on health improvements, and diagnose injuries and illnesses. A skilled nurse practitioner gathers the information they need for informed conversations with patients. Nursing schools use clinical placements, simulations, and coursework taught by experienced faculty for clinical skill building.

Analytical Skills

The patient-practitioner relationship does not take place in a vacuum. A patient’s condition may be informed by environmental, financial, and social factors not clear upon initial examination. Successful nurse practitioners analyze available data and patient interactions for evidence-based decisions.

Patient education and treatment plans must evolve over time based on effectiveness, cost, and current research. Each care decision is also shaped by the availability of resources and limitations of health systems. Nurse practitioners analyze these conditions and adapt when necessary for better patient outcomes.

Leadership Skills

Successful nurse practitioners demonstrate strong communication and organizational abilities in clinical settings on a daily basis. They coordinate registered nurses and front desk staff for the efficient operation of medical practices. Nurse practitioners frequently coordinate with their colleagues, team with physicians, and champion improvements to organizational leadership.

There are also community leadership opportunities for nurse practitioners, especially in underserved communities. Nurse practitioners witness social determinants of health like education access and economic stability on a regular basis. AANP suggests that nurse practitioner expertise can be used to advocate for improved health and social services.

National Standards for Nurse Practitioner Education

Nursing schools throughout the United States are guided by high standards set by national nurse practitioner organizations. The skills mentioned above are forged through rigorous education and hands-on clinical experiences. The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) provide guidelines for nursing programs.

NONPF Core Competencies

NONPF first produced its Nurse Practitioner Role Core Competencies list in 1990. This document indicates the abilities required of new nurse practitioners upon entry to practice. The organization aligned its competencies with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) The Essentials for a unified approach to nursing education.

The Nurse Practitioner Role Core Competencies table identifies 10 areas of mastery for newly licensed practitioners. The following competencies are expected of nurse practitioners:

  1. Knowledge of Nursing Practice
  2. Person-Centered Care
  3. Population Health
  4. Scholarship for the Nursing Discipline
  5. Quality and Safety
  6. Interprofessional Partnerships
  7. Systems-Based Practice
  8. Informatics and Health Care Technologies
  9. Professionalism
  10. Personal, Professional, and Leadership Development

These qualities are shared across entry-level and advanced-level education programs. Each competency includes a checklist of measurements for success. For example, the Systems-Based Practice domain contains the following metrics:

  1. Apply knowledge of systems to work effectively across the continuum of care
  2. Incorporate consideration of cost-effectiveness of care
  3. Optimize system effectiveness through the application of innovation and evidence-based practice

AANP Competency Domains

AANP’s Nurse Practitioner Curriculum was first published in 1993 to guide graduate nursing programs. The document reinforces the need for clinical skills and hands-on experiences across practice settings. Graduate nursing programs also build the skills for the roles played by nurse practitioners including advocate, educator, and manager.

The curriculum establishes seven competency domains for nurse practitioners in every clinical setting. Graduate-level education in these domains prepare students for national certification exams. Nursing schools are expected to produce graduates who can excel in the following areas:

  1. Management of Patient Health/Illness Status
  2. The Nurse Practitioner-Patient Relationship
  3. The Teaching-Coaching Function
  4. Professional Role
  5. Managing and Negotiating Health Care Delivery Systems
  6. Monitoring and Ensuring the Quality of Health Care Practices
  7. Culturally Sensitive Care

Areas of Overlap in AANP and NONPF Competencies

AANP and NONPF crafted their competency expectations over years of discussions with leading educators. A comparison of the lists reveals common expectations for nurse practitioner skills. New nurse practitioners achieve success through respect for their patients, collaborations with colleagues, and high professional standards.

Both sets of standards also emphasize the nurse practitioner’s role in advancing the profession. Nurse practitioners find ways to innovate within health systems through systemic thinking and the use of technology. A graduate degree from the University of Indianapolis establishes the foundations for successful nurse practitioner careers.

Learning Nurse Practitioner Skills at the University of Indianapolis

The University of Indianapolis offers master’s and doctorate programs for aspiring nurse practitioners. These entirely online programs are offered part-time to accommodate nurses' busy schedules. Graduates are ready for national certification and primary care roles thanks to the university’s Education for Service mission.

Master’s Degrees

BSN graduates with current nursing licenses can choose from two nurse practitioner MSN degrees at the University of Indianapolis. The Online MSN-FNP prepares students for family nurse practitioner roles, while the Online MSN-AGPCNP focuses on adult-gerontology primary care. Each degree requires 46 credit hours and 750 clinical practice hours arranged by the placement department.

Doctoral Degrees

There are also two paths to terminal degrees in nursing practice for University of Indianapolis students. Doctoral students can focus their Online BSN-DNP studies on the Family Nurse Practitioner or Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner routes. The BSN-DNP degrees feature 62 credit hours, 750 clinical practice hours, and up to 500 project hours.

A University with a National Reputation

Our graduate nursing programs contribute to a strong reputation for academic excellence. U.S. News & World Report places the University of Indianapolis in the top third of all nursing programs in the United States. The publication also ranked the university No. 55 in its list of the Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs. Colleges of Distinction also recognized the university in its 2022-2023 ranking of nursing schools.

Find out more about how the University of Indianapolis can advance your nursing career.