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Valuable Advice for New Nurse Practitioners

Home > Valuable Advice for New Nurse Practitioners
Peggy O’Donnell, ANP, BC, MS, RN

An experienced family nurse practitioner, educator, and consultant, Peggy O’Donnell, ANP, BC, MS, RN, believes that every patient interaction is a valuable one. Below, she shares some words of wisdom for the new generation of nurse practitioners. O`Donnell comes from a primary care perspective, but all new nurse practitioners will find her advice relevant.

1. Personalize Your Professional Goals

According to O`Donnell, there`s a great future for nurse practitioners who want to go into primary care. However, she points out that there are plenty of opportunities in other arenas, from acute care to cardiology to dermatology.

"Every specialty has a need for nurse practitioners," she says. "You can create what you want with your professional goals. With any area you want to go into, you can find a niche with nurse practitioning. They`re in every facet of healthcare right now."

Your personal life has an effect on your career, and that`s fine too. "You can work your degree to your personal goals," says O`Donnell. "That`s very important. You don`t need to pigeonhole yourself."

2. Choose Your Own Level of Independence

Compared to other nursing professions, nurse practitioners enjoy a fair bit of control when it comes to choosing their level of professional autonomy. Approximately 15% of nurse practitioners in the US run their own private practices, while others work at nurse-managed health centers. Some nurse practitioners work in collaboration with a physician, or are employed by a physician, and others work in hospitals or universities. While individual state regulations will affect your specific range of choices, the key is to know what you`re comfortable with.

Primary care providers typically have the most autonomy, says O`Donnell. Concerning NPs in specialized niches, she says, "Very often their role is a little closer to the physician that they`re working with. A lot of nurse practitioners are very comfortable in those roles, because they don`t want all this independence, they don`t want to be running their own practices, which is fine! They like to have a closer collaboration with the physician that they`re working with."

Whether you enjoy a lot of independence or prefer to work collaboratively, O`Donnell says, "you can find something that`s at your comfort level." And of course, as your career develops over time, your preferences may change.

3. Stay Involved

Connecting and communicating with other nurse practitioners is vital. "I want to tell those folks out there who are becoming nurse practitioners to please stay involved with your local organizations," O`Donnell says. This is a productive move, she explains, because societies and organizations work to protect the roles of nurse practitioners in today`s changing health environment.

You`ll also appreciate the support and encouragement from peers and role models. "It`s important, too, to have the camaraderie for educational and networking purposes," she says.

National organizations for nurse practitioners include the American College of Nurse Practitioners, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Ask your mentors or professors to recommend local and state-wide nurse practitioner organizations.

4. Don't Knock the Nursing Out of You

Nurse practitioning allows for the holistic approach to medical care, says O`Donnell. And that`s what makes it so special. "It`s this nice blend of the medical model and the nursing model. Our individualized approach to medical care is unique and wonderful."

But, she cautions, don`t let one model or the other dominate to the exclusion of the other. Most importantly, stay in touch with your "nursing" roots. "I wouldn`t knock the nursing out of you," she says.

O`Donnell explains, "When nurse practitioners first come out, they`re always panicked about learning to diagnose, treat, write the right prescription." That`s appropriate, she says, because those aspects of the role can be very stressful in the beginning. But as nurse practitioners develop confidence in their roles, they should nurture and appreciate the special touch that their nursing education has given them. "Once you get comfortable in the role, the nursing aspect of yourself is what makes you special. And that`s what winds up to be the little piece of you that makes you a better communicator, and allows you to relationship-build. It gives you that edge."


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