Practice nurses are crucial members of the healthcare system in the United States. Their knowledge and skills go beyond medical expertise. They extend to patient experience, which can affect overall health outcomes.
If you are thinking of being a nurse in general medical practice, this article is for you. We will walk you through the different duties and roles of a practice nurse to help you decide whether this is the right career path for you.
What is a Practice Nurse?
Practice nurses are registered nurses who work closely with other healthcare and social care professionals to deliver comprehensive and holistic care to their patients. They are all-rounders who primarily work in outpatient and primary care settings, specifically in clinics (e.g., general practitioners and schools), community health centers, family health clinics, and urgent care centers.
The responsibilities of practice nurses, also called general practice nurses, change constantly. In general, they participate in a number of aspects of patient care and treatment. Examples of their typical daily tasks include the following:
– Giving medications and immunizations
– Caring for wounds
– Assisting the doctor with minor surgery
– Helping with inventory management and order processing tasks
– Scheduling appointments and bringing patients in for check-ups and crucial care
– Creating a maintenance care plan for patients with long-term medical problems
– Reviewing and talking about test results with patients
So, how do you become a practice nurse?
If you plan to pursue this profession, you must complete either a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). After passing the national licensure exam, you may need to receive additional training or certification.
Nurses who want to excel in their career should then pursue further education by completing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree or the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. In general, an MSN degree takes less time to complete, and both can be completed online when studying with educational institutions such as University of Indianapolis. When it comes to the issue of MSN vs DNP salary, nurses who pursue DNP degrees usually have higher median yearly salaries than those with an MSN degree. University of Indianapolis provides both an MSN and a DNP course, both of which are CCNE-accredited programs with dedicated clinical placement departments.
7 Ways Practice Nurses Can Improve Patient Experience
Practice nurses enhance patient experiences by using a combination of essential soft skills and technical skills. Here are a few examples:
Effective communication skills
The ability to communicate effectively with other people is a core skill for nurses. It is important for several reasons. For instance, it allows practice nurses to gain the trust of their patients. It also promotes collaboration with other healthcare professionals to ensure high-quality, patient-focused care.
Below we discuss some communication strategies that you can use as a practice nurse to improve patient care.
Use non-verbal cues (e.g., eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and voice tone). You can nod your head, smile, and maintain eye contact. Avoid negative non-verbal cues, such as folding your arms, constantly looking at your watch, and shrugging.
Be an active listener. This does not only show your patients and their families that you care, but it also helps you understand their needs and give the proper interventions.
Make sure your patients understand you. One way to do this is by speaking clearly and slowly. Another way is to ask them to repeat what you said to make sure they understood you correctly.
Compassion and empathy
Simply put, empathy means feeling what others are feeling. According to the results of an international research study published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN), American nurses define caring and compassion as having these crucial components: listening, caring deeply, desiring to help others, developing a relationship, providing support to ease suffering, and serving others.
There are different ways practice nurses can incorporate compassion and empathy into caring for their patients. Below are just a few of them.
Show sincere concern for your patient by being genuinely kind and compassionate. You can do this by affirming what is important for them, including their feelings and thoughts. Be careful not to give them false hope.
Pay attention to the fears, worries, and vulnerabilities of your patients. This will help build trust and make your patients feel valued.
Remember to be respectful toward your patients’ diverse backgrounds, including their ethnicity, race, religion, and sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Take special care not to let your personal biases lead you to make assumptions about your patients. Instead, focus on helping them have equal access to high-quality care.
Showing compassion and empathy does not only benefit patients. It also helps practice nurses improve their performance in different ways, like when administering medications, collecting medical history information, and making ethical decisions.
The core of the nursing profession revolves around the concept that the patient is at the center of care. That means nurses, regardless of their specialty or title, need to consider and respect their patients’ beliefs, cultural traditions, preferences, and other needs during their care.
Examples of how practice nurses can embrace patient-centered care include the following:
Customized care. This makes patients feel they have choices and control over their medical care. When practice nurses create customized treatment plans, they take into consideration the patient’s unique medical needs, internal values, and preferences.
Encourage family presence. For instance, family members can participate in care discussions during nursing rounds. Another example is patients having the freedom to decide which family members or support people can accompany them during their recovery period.
Communicate clearly. It would be difficult for patients to make informed decisions about their medical care if they did not understand what healthcare providers were telling them. By using clear and simple language when communicating with patients, practice nurses empower them to take an active role in their treatment.
Educate and empower patients
The primary goal of providing effective patient education is to achieve permanent changes in the behavior of patients. Whether it is educating patients about self-care strategies for a chronic illness or healthy lifestyle habits, patient education can help encourage patients to make independent decisions and actively participate in their care to improve compliance and outcomes.
Patient education does not stop during the patient’s stay in the hospital or visits to the doctor’s clinic. It is a continuous process that extends after a patient is discharged.
Tips for giving effective patient education are listed below.
Ask patients about the most convenient time for them to learn about different aspects of their care, such as medication administration, routine screenings, self-care techniques, and safety measures at home. It is important to pick a schedule that allows for minimal interruptions.
According to statistics, approximately 65% of people are visual learners. Nurses should take advantage of visual teaching tools to engage their patients, such as anatomical models and dolls, diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, printed materials, and videos, if the patient learns best this way.
Practice nurses can demonstrate certain procedures or treatments and let patients practice them under their supervision. This hands-on strategy can improve patient confidence and competence. Practice nurses should avoid using medical jargon and concepts. If it is something they cannot avoid, they can rephrase or repeat instructions in terms that patients of all backgrounds can understand. Practice nurses can repeat the information as many times as needed to ensure patients understand the essential details before they are discharged.
Proper time management
The fast-paced environment of hospitals requires effective time management from all healthcare professionals. It requires time and practice to develop. However, once mastered, it benefits both healthcare professionals and patients.
Practice nurses with strong time management skills are more likely to stay calm and can plan their tasks well to prevent burnout, which is often linked with medical errors. Here are a few time management strategies that practice nurses can use for their daily routine.
Prioritize workload. There are different guidelines for categorizing tasks based on priority. Practice nurses may start by listing all their tasks before categorizing them into different levels (for instance, emergency, high priority, medium priority, and low priority). After doing this, they can focus on determining their plan of action.
No multitasking. While it may seem like the productive thing to do, recent studies show multitasking can kill productivity – or worse, damage the brain. It may also cause attention failure and brief memory issues, which can affect judgment and increase the risk of committing errors.
Delegate tasks. The tasks practice nurses can delegate will depend on their state laws, workplace policies, and the health status of the patient. In general, they should delegate tasks that are routine, safe, and have predictable outcomes. The delegated tasks should also be within the other person’s scope of expertise, educational background, and skills.
Use available technology. There is a wide range of apps, devices, and websites that can help practice nurses with managing their time, communicate with other healthcare professionals, remote monitoring of patients’ progress, teaching patients, and so on.
Thorough assessment skills
Assessment is a vital component of the nursing process. Practice nurses use it to gather relevant information about a patient’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being. Since this is an important medical procedure, the nurse performing it needs to be knowledgeable and experienced to make an accurate diagnosis and an effective care plan.
To stay competent, practice nurses need to continuously improve their assessment skills. There are different ways they can go about doing that. For instance, they can enroll in continuing education programs or attend conferences. Keeping up with the latest advancements and studies in healthcare can also help practice nurses improve their assessment skills.
How do patients benefit from strong nursing assessment skills?
Practice nurses depend on detailed assessments to make an accurate and timely diagnosis of a patient’s health status. Aside from performing a comprehensive physical examination, they may consider the patient’s presenting symptoms and go through their medical history and laboratory test results to rule out other medical issues.
By performing regular and thorough assessments, practice nurses gain a better understanding of the goals, preferences, and other needs of their patients. This valuable information allows them to develop a holistic care plan that produces positive outcomes.
Another reason nurses perform assessments is to monitor the effectiveness of medications, medical procedures, and other interventions. This helps them adjust their approach. Other healthcare professionals can also use their assessments to re-evaluate their treatment plans to ensure patients receive the best possible care.
They can also use the findings of their assessments to educate patients. By discussing their findings, potential treatment choices, and other concerns, they can make patients feel respected and encourage them to play a more active role in their own care. An engaged patient will most likely lead to better compliance and health outcomes.
Valuing patient feedback
Patient feedback is a valuable resource. It helps healthcare professionals, including nurses, determine and understand what is working well and what needs further improvement. As a result, they can better meet their treatment goals and their patients’ needs or preferences.
Being open to patient feedback also says something about a nurse’s character and work ethic. By actively seeking input from patients and colleagues, practice nurses are able to demonstrate that they are a team player, an effective communicator, and someone who is eager to improve.
There might be times when patients are hesitant to offer their feedback to their healthcare team. Practice nurses can help encourage them to give their assessments and observations by using patient-friendly feedback channels, such as suggestion boxes and online forms. They can also emphasize to patients that they value their feedback because it can help improve the quality of their care and overall experience.
Key takeaways: How practice nurses enhance the patient experience
With their expert knowledge, skills, experience, and dedication, there is no doubt that practice nurses play a vital role in enhancing the patient’s experience within any healthcare setting. They can achieve this by using effective communication, empathy and compassion, patient-focused care, patient education, proper time management, comprehensive assessments, and patient feedback.
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