Nursing careers can be eventful and rewarding. Along the way, nurses will gain skills and experience in evidence-based methods of patient care and insights into various illnesses and injuries, the administration of medication, and professional interaction with colleagues and patients. Nurses’ experiences give them the confidence to work independently or as part of a team of highly competent nurses.
For nurses wishing to advance their careers further, there are various online courses available that enable them to continue working alongside gaining additional qualifications. Most universities offer online post-graduate degrees that empower nurses with the necessary leadership and advanced nurse practitioner (NP) skills required to elevate their professional careers and increase their job satisfaction.
The important role of nurse practitioners
Across the globe, healthcare facilities are battling with shortages of medical practitioners, and the US is no exception. Progressive advances in medical technology mean that people are living longer – given the fact that people over 75 usually have more than one chronic ailment, the aging population is creating a greater demand for medical resources. In addition to this, declining birth rates in many areas mean that the younger population is not producing as many physicians when compared to statistics from previous years. Medical physicians are in short supply, with statistics predicting that the deficit of primary care physicians alone will reach figures of between 18000 and 48000 in the year 2034.
With their specialized training, nurse practitioners have an important role to play in alleviating the shortages experienced in the healthcare industry today. NPs conduct physical examinations, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medicines. They access patients’ records, order diagnostic tests, and analyze the results, referring patients to general practitioners or specialists for further treatment where necessary. Their advanced training and skills enable NPs to have more autonomy in the way they practice, creating job opportunities in a diverse choice of clinical settings. NPs can work in hospitals and clinics as senior nurses, or in private practice as assistants to medical practitioners. They are valuable assets in nursing homes and special care institutions, such as homes for the elderly or the mentally infirm. NPs also play an important role in communities by educating patients regarding their medication and how to lead healthier lifestyles.
In most states in the US, NPs are permitted to run their own practices, and this empowers them to open clinics in rural areas or underprivileged communities, bringing primary care into areas that were previously underserved.
NPs undeniably lighten the workload of general practitioners in clinical settings and private practice, giving them more time to focus on more complex medical cases.
As an experienced registered nurse, the natural progression in your career may be to get involved in one of these specialized areas of healthcare by attaining a Master of Science in Nursing degree. You might want to consider a Nurse Practitioner clinical placement with a reputable institution, such as Texas Woman’s University. Here, you can experience the practical side of your studies by having the opportunity to learn from experts in the medical field on a clinical placement. During this time you can learn how to overcome new medical challenges and further your knowledge by providing excellent medical care.
Qualities of an effective nurse practitioner
From the above, it can be seen that nurse practitioners play an important role in healthcare organizations, and it takes a special, motivated person to fulfill this role. As an experienced nurse, you will have established that you have a caring, nurturing side to your character, and that, combined with your ability to work hard and make an impact in people’s lives, is evidence that you will be successful in your endeavors as a nurse practitioner.
Further studies will serve to enhance the following special skills that ensure the nurse practitioner’s success in this rewarding career:
NPs develop strong leadership skills as they move into roles with more responsibility. A good leader knows when to be assertive, when to sit back and listen, and how to lead by example. Gaining respect as a leader is paramount to the role of an NP, as this creates cohesion when leading a team in emergency situations and improves patient care.
The ability to analyze clinical situations, patient data, and clinical statistics is an important component of a nurse practitioner’s skill set. NPs need to respond to emergencies with a clear mind and an informed course of action, and their ability to analyze and assess a situation and act accordingly can save a patient’s life.
NPs should also be able to analyze statistics in order to identify patterns regarding patient care and successful outcomes. Analysis of reactions to particular medicines or treatments enables NPs to determine whether the current treatment is effective or not. Analysis of patient readmission statistics can help identify areas within the organization that are not functioning effectively.
Compassion and empathy
NPs are by nature caring and compassionate people and should know how to empathize with both patients and staff members when called upon for moral support or sympathy.
Good communication skills are an essential part of the job, as NPs are required to deal with people from all walks of life. Whether dealing with high-level professionals, anxious patients and family members, or people living in disadvantaged communities, good communicators listen and respond with kindness. This builds trust, and patients are more likely to discuss their problems when they have a level of trust in their practitioner. Nurses should always be positive and honest; when giving patients a diagnosis, always provide them with something positive that they can take away, such as a goal that they can try to achieve or advice on how to manage their situation.
Trust and integrity
The ability to make each one of their patients feel important and cared for builds trusting relationships and is conducive to better patient outcomes.
NPs are organized. Their efficient management of time and resources means effective patient care.
NPs need to be cognizant of patient safety at all times. If in doubt about a diagnosis, the patient can be referred to a primary care physician for a second opinion. Extreme caution needs to be exercised when prescribing medicines, facilitated by consulting records of the patient’s history of illness and current medication needs. The aforementioned master of science in nursing degree will provide nurses with information regarding the latest pharmaceutical developments, including the products, their possible side effects, and their effects on other medications.
NPs can innovate changes in procedures based on previous experience and research. Depending on the setting in which they work, they can introduce activities for children, advocate for alternate practices such as massages in homes for the elderly, and get communities involved in activities that educate them on healthcare issues. The options are endless, and it’s up to the NP to find creative ways of treating people to make them feel cared for and take their minds off their problems.
The ability to be flexible is useful in any walk of life, but in nursing, it is an essential part of the job. In clinical settings, emergencies often disrupt the daily routine, and things that were supposed to be done today get shifted out until there is time. Patients have bad days, and so do nurses. Staff shortages occur due to unforeseen circumstances, and the remaining staff is required to take on extra duties. Nurse practitioners learn how to manage their time and will include some contingency time into their daily schedule without compromising on the quality of patient care or time spent with their nursing team.
Competence and confidence
Competence and confidence are qualities that develop over time. The more experience the NP has, the more competent they will become, and the more confidence they will have in their skills and decision-making.
Lack of confidence can have a negative effect on performance, and in nursing, there is no place for mistakes. It is therefore essential that NPs go into practice with confidence in their abilities. Studying for a degree equips nurses with vast amounts of knowledge; however, unless they have worked in an environment that is relevant to their training, there are likely to be gaps in their skill set, which will affect both their competence and confidence.
Finding a mentor is one option that a newly qualified NP can consider. However, the practical side of the degree, or clinical placement, should be sufficiently effective in instilling the confidence and skills necessary for the NP to cope with their new position.
The importance of clinical placement
What is clinical placement?
Studying for a degree online has many advantages for nurses. It enables them to continue earning a salary while they study and spend quality time with their families where necessary. In addition, as they continue working, they build up more experience, which often supplements their studies, and conversely, knowledge gained from their studies can be applied to their current working situation.
In nursing, theory is not enough, and universities stipulate a period of practical work in a clinical environment as a requirement in most degrees. Students studying for a nurse practitioner’s qualification often specialize in a particular field, such as family nursing or pediatrics. It makes sense, therefore, for the practical side of the qualification to be carried out in the appropriate clinical setting.
Clinical placement is not always easy to find, as there are limited facilities that offer this service, and finding a specialized environment narrows the search even further. Some universities offer clinical placement as part of the course, as they prefer their students to get on with the work instead of wasting time trying to find a suitable option for their practical work.
The benefits of clinical placement
When nurses are accepted into a clinical institution that undertakes to provide the practical experience necessary for them to qualify, they are placed under the supervision of a preceptor, or teacher. Preceptors, in this instance, are registered nurses who have a wealth of experience and often specialized knowledge in various nursing disciplines. Unlike mentors, who instruct and allow junior nurses to shadow them, preceptors supervise students and monitor their ability to carry out the functions relevant to their degree studies. Nursing students gain valuable knowledge and skills from their preceptors, who assess students’ abilities and report back to the educational institution.
There are many benefits to be gained from working under the supervision of a nurse preceptor, and it’s wise to take notes and ask questions while you have the opportunity.
Working in different clinical placement settings gives students insight into the way different organizations operate. Besides close interaction with their preceptors, students are likely to interact with practitioners from various disciplines, observing and acquiring different skill sets as they learn. Clinical placement often places nurses in challenging or stressful situations, and their preceptor can step in and offer advice, teaching them to cope with the challenges that are sure to come their way in their role as NPs.
With a focus on evidence-based practice in clinical institutions today, nurses can practice with confidence, and clinics and hospitals can have the assurance that the best possible procedures are being followed. Working under the supervision of a preceptor ensures that student nurses and nurse practitioners are exposed to the correct methods of practice.
Finding clinical placement work in an institution that is in their preferred geographical area enables students to form friendships with fellow students in their area, and sometimes successful study groups develop from those friendships. They may also build working relationships that can be beneficial for future employment.
Finding clinical placement
Clinical placements are offered by various institutions, such as hospitals and clinics, care facilities for the elderly or disabled, and primary care practices. However, finding a suitable placement for your practical studies can be quite a complex process.
Some universities offer a clinical placement service as part of the degree, enabling their students to focus on their studies. Many institutions don’t offer this service, however, and leave it up to the student to find their own clinical placement. There are companies that offer a service similar to that of the universities that find placements for students, but this comes with an additional cost to the student. Students who are unable to afford this option are left to look for their placement on their own.
Finding a perfect match when searching for a placement is not always easy, as sometimes the demand exceeds the supply. Ideally, you would want to be placed in an area that is close to home, particularly if you have a family to care for. It would also be preferable to find somewhere that can offer you preceptorship in your chosen field of study, and occasionally, lack of availability may mean dividing your practical work across two institutions: one to complete your general NP training, and the other to complete the specialization.
Choosing to study at a university that offers clinical placement as part of the course comes with many benefits. Universities usually have arrangements with the various clinical institutions that offer placement facilities and arrange a specified number of places that are booked in advance. This means guaranteed placement in a clinical organization and a higher likelihood of a good match with a specialized preceptor.
We strongly recommend that you investigate clinical placement opportunities before enrolling in your post-graduate degree in nursing. Students that fail to find a clinical placement may be unable to complete their degree.
Enrolling with a university that offers clinical placement saves students a lot of time, anxiety, and frustration, enabling students to get on with their studies while the university manages the placement process.
Be smart and plan ahead
As can be seen from the above, the sooner you start making arrangements for the practical side of your studies as a nurse practitioner, the better. The ideal situation is to seek out a course that suits your requirements and offers to find you suitable facilities for your practical term.
If this isn’t possible, it’s important to find your own clinical placement. Consider your specialized requirements and find a placement that suits your needs. Either way, finding a good placement with a quality institution will enable you to study with peace of mind and obtain the grades you know are within your capabilities.