Characteristics of Nurse Practitioners

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide patients with primary and specialized care, either autonomously or alongside a physician. Primary duties of nurse practitioners include examining patients and determining optimal ways to either improve their health or help manage their chronic conditions. Most NPs specialize in a specific field such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or psychiatric health.

Nurse smiling holding clipboard

NPs must meet some basic requirements, one of which is having a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Duquesne University’s MSN program provides the knowledge and skills that graduates can use to advance their careers as nurse practitioners.

The Four Elements Of Caring

In addition to academics, NPs need certain personality traits and skills to be effective at their jobs. At the top of the list is a caring demeanor and an inherent desire to care for those in need.

Jean Watson, a well-known nurse theorist and nursing professor with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Counseling, says several factors are central to caring, including the preservation of a patient’s dignity and a personal connection with each patient.

Caring encompasses several components, including these four main elements:


NPs should display attentiveness, particularly when assessing a patient’s condition, and go out of their way to ensure that a patent’s needs are met. Recent examples of attentiveness policies at the facility level include hourly rounding requirements and “No Pass Zones.” The “No Pass” policy requires any nurse passing by room with a patient’s call light on to check on the patient.


NPs should remain aware of their responsibilities toward patients and make sure people under their care understand the treatments, medications, and medical options available to them. This policy is especially crucial for NPs who operate autonomously because they do not work under a physician who might otherwise catch a mistake.


All nurses should grow professionally on a regular basis. They can do so by enrolling in programs and attending seminars on relevant topics. NPs must also display their competency by being re-certified on a regular basis.

Responsiveness of the Patient

A critical measure of an NP’s effectiveness is how well his/her patients fare. Patients who stay healthy reflect well on the practitioner. NPs should also be aware of how the patients’ families are managing. Often, a patient’s quickest path to recovery depends on both patient and family maintaining a positive outlook – something that an effective NP can help provide.

Essential Personality Characteristics And Skills

In addition to a caring demeanor, NPs should possess a finely tuned set of social skills, including:


When dealing with patients experiencing physical or emotional pain, or both, NPs should, most importantly, show them compassion and empathy. Patients are more likely to be honest if they feel that their NPs genuinely care for their well-being. When their patients are more honest, NPs can provide the most optimal care.


A patient’s attitude can have a huge effect on his/her overall health status. As such, NPs should strive to maintain a positive attitude as well as emotional composure.


NPs should be excellent at prioritizing. Some medical issues are more immediately pressing than others and NPs must be able to identify which are urgent and which are secondary concerns.


Clear communication is essential for NPs. Often, NPs must translate complicated medical jargon related to a patient’s treatment into terms the patient can understand. Patients who are given easily understood treatment instructions have a higher chance of improving their health.

Dealing With Stress

Working as a nurse practitioner can be stressful, but successful NPs find ways to manage the pressure.

“Nurses are not immune to occupational stress,” Patti Lucarelli, a pediatric NP at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, says in her Advance Healthcare Network article, “What’s Stress Got To Do With It?”. A survey conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) found that seventy percent of nurses reported experiencing effects of work-related stress.

According to the ANA, one method NPs use to manage their stress is sharing their thoughts and opinions with other practitioners and nurses, either individually or in support groups. Communicating with peers allows NPs to gain other perspectives and maintain a positive outlook.

The ANA also suggests staying organized. Nurses who spend too much time looking for supplies or patient files can quickly become overwhelmed.

Taking the time to document the day’s events and incidents is another useful method of stress management. Studying their daily activity allows NPs to reflect on their practices, as well as gain new insights and perspectives.

The best NPs also make sure to get sufficient rest between working hours. Rest means more than sleep – hobbies and recreation are instrumental to maintaining a healthy emotional balance.

“(Stress) doesn’t have to wreak havoc in our lives,” Lucarelli says. “By helping to identify the stressors that impact our clients and ourselves, and implementing effective stress management strategies, everyone can get a better handle on stress!”

About Duquesne University’s Online Master Of Science In Nursing (MSN) Program

The Duquesne University School of Nursing is top ranked in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. The online Master of Science in Nursing program offers registered nurses who aspire to become nurse practitioners the opportunity to advance in their careers and play an even greater role in providing healthcare services. For more information, visit Duquesne University’s MSN program website.