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A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

Few health care roles are quite as challenging as that of nurse practitioner—and few offer as many opportunities to make a lasting impression on both patients and peers.

As one of several advanced specialties offered for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) educated at the graduate level, the role of nurse practitioner resembles that of a physician in many ways. This critical job is by no means easy, but nurse practitioners (NPs) take pride in their work and are determined to make a difference in the lives of their patients.

What a Typical Day Looks Like For a Nurse Practitioner

There is no typical day for a NP. Each shift comes with its own unique set of circumstances and challenges. Still, certain patterns tend to emerge over time, making the ups and downs of work in a fast-paced health care environment a little more manageable.

Preparing For the Day

Success as an nurse practitioner depends on thorough preparation—and we’re not just talking academics. Coffee is essential, of course, and many NPs find themselves visiting coffee shops just as frequently as they did during college.

While NPs employed in small physician offices or health clinics typically work ‘regular’ hours, it is not uncommon for them to be employed in hospitals or other settings that warrant round-the-clock care. As such, some NPs find themselves working weekends, holidays, overnight, and on-call as hospitalists.

Regardless of their hours, most NPs make an effort to glance through patient charts and get organized when they arrive at work. This time can prove valuable when there are circumstances such as emergencies that occur unexpectedly. Depending on the position, they may respond to patient phone calls, answer messages via online portals, or complete refill requests for medications any given day.

Meeting With Patients

When the day’s first appointment arrives, NPs transition into a period of meeting with patients and responding to requests from fellow medical professionals.

Individual concerns vary considerably from one patient to the next, but experienced NPs often note clear patterns regarding the types of conditions and illnesses their patients face.

No matter the patient’s unique concerns, NPs tend to follow a basic ritual during appointments. They often begin by greeting patients and gathering background information to determine a plan of care. For new patients, this may include a thorough assessment of family and personal history.

NPs often respond to current complaints, including both physical and emotional symptoms. They must also balance the rigor of their work with emotional care of patients and families. This involves showing compassion while still providing the firm instruction needed to ensure that patients follow through with treatment procedures and healthy lifestyle choices.
Depending on the patient’s symptoms, NPs may initiate a variety of diagnostic tests designed to gather additional information. When making diagnoses, they sometimes consult with physicians or specialists. Once illnesses or conditions are accurately diagnosed, NPs may proceed with prescribing medication or other treatment options.

This routine is repeated several times throughout the day. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the majority of today’s NPs meet with at least three patients per hour. With so many patients waiting to be seen, it can be difficult to give everybody the attention they deserve. Over time, however, NPs grow accustomed to juggling a growing volume of patients.

Working With Other Health Care Professionals

Collaboration with other healthcare professionals is huge for NPs, like many other clinicians, to increase optimal health outcomes. In addition to establishing trusting relationships with their patients, they must build strong bonds with registered nurses (RNs), physicians, and a variety of other medical specialists or representatives. This collaboration helps to ensure continuity and excellence in care provided to patients and communities.

After the Shift

The day doesn’t end when NPs meet with their final patients and finish examining charts. Those who work ‘standard’ schedules hope to get out on time—but their day may be followed by long commutes, patient emergencies, and unexpected delays in the daily schedule.  However, despite the day, many find joy and satisfaction in knowing they have made a difference in the lives of many.

Life as a nurse practitioner requires hard work, dedication, and can be challenging, but it offers numerous rewards that make all the hard work worthwhile. NPs love interacting with patients and fellow health care professionals. They also appreciate the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve contributed immeasurably to the health and vitality of the communities in which they serve.

The journey to becoming an NP can be exciting, especially now that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has called for more nurses to obtain additional education to care for our aging population and those with chronic health issues. Thus, many NPs and fellow nurses are obtaining advanced education. Currently, the trend is to obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. This degree features a rigorous blend of academic study and practical application and answers the call for more educated nurses at the graduate level. The DNP program at Abilene Christian University aligns with recommendations and standards set by the AACN, as well as several other acclaimed healthcare organizations.

For more information on how ACU Online can help you pursue your goals for working—and thriving—in the health care sector as a nurse, contact us at 855-219-7300 or

Other articles of interest:

Everything You Need to Know About ACU Online’s DNP Program

How to be an Effective Nurse Leader

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