How to Be a Better NP: 10 Areas of Improvement for Nurse Practitioners


Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C


Nurse practitioners are a vital member of the health care team. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 40% by 2031, which is higher than average. This supports the notation that nurse practitioners are key healthcare team members. They play an important role in improving the overall health outcomes of the population by helping eliminate barriers to accessing healthcare.

And while nurse practitioners are renowned as excellent healthcare providers, there is always room for improvement. So, what are the areas of improvement for nurse practitioners aspiring to be better NPs? Below you will find 10 main areas of improvement for nurse practitioners aspiring to be better NPs.



What are the Areas of Improvement for Nurse Practitioners Aspiring to Be Better Nurse Practitioners?


A good nurse practitioner is always looking for ways to improve the care they are providing and to better themselves as a healthcare provider. Below you will find the 10 main areas of improvement for nurse practitioners aspiring to be better NPs.

AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #1: Communication

Communication is an essential component in the delivery of high-quality healthcare. This includes strong communication with other healthcare providers, patients, and the patient’s family members. While nurse practitioners are known for their strong communication skills, there is always room for improvement. This may allow better communication with a patient regarding their diagnosis and treatment options or better communication with the healthcare team regarding scheduling follow-ups or consultations with other specialties. Regardless of the “why,” NPs can almost always improve communication to improve patient outcomes.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #2: Attendance of continuing education conferences

Another area of improvement for nurse practitioners is to always build on their knowledge by completing continuing education courses, including attending conferences. These conferences provide education that is based on current evidence in medicine. Conferences are available on every topic imaginable, including family medicine, orthopedics, behavioral health, pediatrics, and infectious disease. These conferences allow NPs to stay current in their practice and ensure they provide the best care possible.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #3: Utilizing evidence-based research in daily practice

Utilizing evidence-based research in their daily practice is another area of improvement for the nurse practitioner—and as a family practice nurse practitioner, I can tell you I use UpToDate on almost a daily basis. I use this tool personally to research topics I don’t know as much about, to look up diagnostic tests that should be ordered based on a patient’s symptoms or my differential diagnoses and to look up treatment plans including medications and appropriate doses. By using tools that provide current evidence-based practice guidelines such as UpToDate, Epocrates, newsletters and journals, you are doing your best as a provider to ensure current practice guidelines are being used.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #4: Rely on your team

Don't hesitate to rely on your team—which may be hard for many healthcare providers, including nurse practitioners. The healthcare team is there to support you and has the same goal in mind: to improve the patient's health outcomes. This includes relying on the nurses to perform daily care, complete prior authorizations, or educate patients on their diagnosis or medication. Rely on physical and occupational therapy to help the patient regain their strength or skills to complete daily tasks. Please don't hesitate to use the healthcare team to their fullest extent, as this is best for the patient.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #5: Know your community

Knowing your community is important for all healthcare workers, including nurse practitioners, and it means understanding your community's resources and overall demographics. This is important because it helps provide a generalized background of many patients and what may be available in their town. For example, I work in a smaller community and while we fortunately have a lot of healthcare resources including places for physical therapy and various specialty clinics but we don’t have a taxi service making it hard for some patients to get to their appointments. This makes me aware and be sure to ask my patients if they have a ride or are able to get to their appointments—because if they cannot make an appointment, I can work with the care managers in my clinic to see if a resource is available to help the patient.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #6: Attentiveness to patients and their concerns

Being attentive to patients is an area of improvement for nurse practitioners, and truthfully for a majority of healthcare providers. While NPs have a reputation for taking their time with patients and listening to their concerns, it can be easy to start to rush patients on days the NP falls behind or has multiple other tasks on their schedule. Therefore, it is important to remember why you do what you do—to care for the patient and ensure each one receives the best care possible.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #7: Time Management

Time management is an area of improvement for many people, not just nurse practitioners. NPs have a lot of responsibilities throughout the day regardless of the environment worked—making time management an essential skill for healthcare providers, including NPs. While many experienced NPs feel they have time management figured out, there are typically ways to improve, whether changing how the electronic medical record is used or the best times to respond to messages and results received throughout the day.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #8: Flexibility

Being flexible as a nurse practitioner is important making it an area of improvement for many nurse practitioners. This includes flexibility with changes to your schedule, flexibility in your treatment plan based on joint decision-making between the NP and patient, or flexibility in staffing changes. This is important as it allows the NP not to get overwhelmed with day-to-day changes that may occur and ensures the patient's care and positive outcomes are always at the forefront of decisions.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #9: Confidence

You must be confident as a nurse practitioner, but not all nurse practitioners are making it an area of improvement for nurse practitioners. While you do not want to be overconfident and not know your boundaries or when to seek others' medical opinions, you need to be confident in your day-to-day practice. This is especially challenging for new graduates—and I can speak to this! When I first graduated I had very little confidence in myself as an NP and would discuss a lot of my patients with my co-workers to ensure I was correct in my practices. I also used resources that I mentioned above such as Epocrates and UptoDate to ensure I was following evidence-based medicine.


AREA OF IMPROVEMENT #10: Support of other healthcare providers

This can be challenging for many providers, not just nurse practitioners. But, it is important to show your support, encouragement, and appreciation for other healthcare providers and the entire healthcare team because you would not be able to do what you do without them. This may be as simple as saying thank you to a team member when they help carry out an order or celebrating simple, joyful moments with the staff, including birthdays, holidays, and other important dates. While this may not be a grand gesture, demonstrating appreciation and support will lead to a closer healthcare team and, ultimately, better health outcomes.



My Final Thoughts


Nurse practitioners are a great asset to the healthcare team, but there is always room to improve, just like everyone else. After reading the above article, I hope you can answer the question, what are the areas of improvement of nurse practitioners aspiring to be better NPs? I provided 10 main areas of improvement for nurse practitioners aspiring to be better NPs, and I hope you can incorporate some of these into your daily practice to improve your overall work environment and patient outcomes.


Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!