Family Nurse Practitioners Building Patient Relationships

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Patient relationships open the door to confidence and trust.

One of the many responsibilities of family nurse practitioners (FNPs) is building relationships with patients while using evidence-based care to meet their medical needs. Relationship building is essential because it opens the door to patient confidence and trust, underscoring the importance of nurse practitioners.

In their daily practice, FNPs focus on the health and general well-being of their patients. The job goes beyond disease prevention, health promotion, education and counseling. They build relationships with their patients, families and the community.

“NPs take the time to develop strong relationships with patients. Although this may take a little more time, patient satisfaction and patient outcomes are better. As patients develop relationships with NPs, they are more inclined, based on NP support, to make better health and lifestyle choices, which should help us meet our quality indicators,” researchers said in “Time and NP Practice: Naming, Claiming, and Explaining the Role of Nurse Practitioners” published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

For FNPs, nurse practitioner and patient relationships are an essential component for a successful practice, particularly those starting As registered nurses (RNs) continue to seek advanced degrees, including online master’s in nursing degrees, learning how to develop patient relationships become as important as administering nursing care itself.

Importance of Nurse Practitioner and Patient Relationships

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), an estimated 270,000 nurse practitioners are licensed to practice in the nation. The organization defined the NP’s role as one that provides a “unique emphasis on the health and well-being of the whole person.”

When working in primary care, FNPs are responsible for helping patients through all stages of life, from birth through adulthood, including pregnancy. Because of the spectrum of patient ages and stages, FNPs must be able to build rapport on many levels. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, “The nurse practitioner-client therapeutic encounter: an integrative review of interaction in aged and primary care settings,” noted that three factors played a role in NP-patient relationships:

  1. Nurse practitioner expertise
  2. A positive exchange
  3. A high level of patient engagement

“Nurse practitioners who are open and respectful, who encourage patients to provide more information about their lives and condition and are perceived by the client to be empathetic, are providing affirmation to the client,” the study found.

Indeed, Cindy Cooke, past AANP president, said that the education and training NPs undergo prepares them to build therapeutic relationships and demonstrate the importance of nurse practitioners. NPs use evidence-based diagnostic tools to determine healthcare needs and develop treatment plans. They do the same for relationship building.

“NPs excel in building patient-provider relationships based on compassion, understanding, and trust. NPs are leaders who consult with and advocate for their patients and their communities. They take time to listen and to educate patients—components of relationship-centered care that improve compliance with treatment plans and reduce unnecessary hospitalization,” Cooke said in “Relationship-Centered Care and Nurse Practitioners” on the Society for Participatory Medicine website.

While an FNP’s work may sometimes resemble a physician’s, FNPs are not MDs. FNPs take different approaches to clinical care, so building relationships with patients is different than it is for doctors.

Tips for Building Patient Relationships

In developing patient connections, FNPs that can build rapport and trust:

Maintain patient privacy

A key element of confidentiality is trust. When patient privacy is upheld, deeper levels of trust are formed.

Inspire patient participation

When patients and FNPs participate together for the patient’s wellness, they can develop a sense of teamwork.

Encourage office teamwork

Patients can easily detect fragmented teamwork and poor collaboration among professionals in an office. Cooperative work aids in patient safety.

Engage in active listening

By listening to patients and repeating what they said, FNPs can ensure they are hearing all of the person’s concerns.

FNPs who build patient connections should also incorporate compassion and empathy into their work. Compassion and empathy allow for a strong professional relationship between the FNP and the patient. Patients feel more comfortable with providers who are supportive and trustworthy.

At Duquesne University, RNs who seek to have an opportunity to learn about the essential skills for relationship-building through the online masters in nursing program. The program helps students understand the importance of nurse practitioners in the future of healthcare.

About Duquesne University’s Online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner Program

Duquesne University is consistently recognized as a leader in nursing education, most recently in the “Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs” list by U.S. News & World Report. All of Duquesne University’s nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE*), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The university’s online MSN students learn essential skills for relationship-building that can ultimately develop a foundation for independent FNP practice. The online MSN program provides one-on-one faculty mentorships and a 100% online curriculum.

Graduates are prepared to successfully complete the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Family Nurse Practitioner certification examinations.

Learn more about Duquesne’s Online MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

*The baccalaureate degree program in nursing, master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program and the post-graduate APRN certificate program at Duquesne University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (


Time and NP Practice: Naming, Claiming, and Explaining the Role of Nurse Practitioners: The Journal for Nurse Practitioners
Nurse Practitioner Role Grows to More Than 270,000: AANP
What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?: AANP
The nurse practitioner-client therapeutic encounter: an integrative review of interaction in aged and primary care settings: Journal of Advanced Nursing
Relationship-Centered Care and Nurse Practitioners: Society for Participatory Medicine
How to Build Rapport with Patients: 7 Effective Tips for RNs: NurseChoice