A state organization for registered nurses is expected to come up with a set of standards regulating all levels of nursing practice and serving as both practical and theoretical guidelines of professional activity for nurses. While certain core competences and aspects of performance of direct care and indirect care providers’ advanced roles are common, others may differ significantly (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014). It is highly important to analyze similarities and differences in implementation of the competencies within the roles in order to make a clear distinction of functions performed.
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However, before contrasting core competences of nurse practitioners and nurse administrators, it is worth mentioning that, despite their different scopes of practice, they still have a lot in common. The goals of nursing have changed considerably over time – as a result, all nurses now receive a more comprehensive training, which allows them to perform a lot of functions that were historically reserved for physicians. The role of nurses has expanded far beyond assistance in care provision and minor operations. Today, nurses’ goal is not only to help doctors but also to provide innovative health care solutions, conduct research, ensure patient care and safety, and contribute to professional development of new specialists. The enumerated aspects are common for both direct and indirect specialists. Moreover, all nurses perform their functions in a variety of settings (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber, 2014).
In order to identify aspects of professional activity that differ an advanced nurse practitioner from a nurse administrator, it is necessary to summarize the core competences of each of them.
A nurse practitioner’s role encompasses the following functions (“All about NPs,” 2017):
- assessing patients’ health status;
- identifying risk groups;
- being responsible for patients’ histories and physical examinations;
- collecting required data;
- performing some diagnostics and preventive procedures;
- conducting and interpreting the results of examinations and diagnostic tests;
- administering drugs;
- providing unceasing patient care;
- ensuring monitoring and safety;
- assisting in minor surgeries;
- communicating the importance of proper health behavior patterns to patients;
- rendering emergency aid;
- assisting in health care research.
As far as nurse administrators are concerned, their scope of practice includes (“Learn what you’ll do,” 2017):
- supervising and managing work of the existing staff and hiring new staff;
- drafting work schedules of the personnel;
- conducting research to improve quality and efficiency of patient care;
- managing all fiscal issues involved in care;
- ensuring efficient education and knowledge transfer;
- serving as an intermediary between the authorities, personnel, and department heads;
- managing resources and outcomes;
- providing possibilities for professional development to the staff;
- ensuring success of clinical decision making;
- providing guidelines for solving problems;
- monitoring evidence-based interventions;
- ensuring provision of safety and successful risk management;
- introducing and fostering innovation.
As we can see from the two lists, the key factor that unites nurse practitioners and nurse administrators in their implementation of the competencies is the primary focus on ensuring high-quality patient care (both directly and indirectly) as the major concern of the field of nursing. It includes such dimensions as physiological, psychological, financial, and social support, communication, safety provision, co-presence, sympathy, etc. In order to guarantee high-quality clinical experience for patients, both specialists need a lot of skills and training. The significance of patient satisfaction does not diminish the importance of staff administration, education and research; however, it is the urge to help people that gave nursing its unifying goal (Masters, 2015).
Yet, this commonality of ultimate purpose should not delude one into thinking that these professions are identical or interchangeable. Nurse practitioners and nurse administrators use different skills and require different training to implement their competencies. First and foremost, the role of a nurse practitioner is defined as clinical as he/she is primarily expected to provide direct care to patients in hospital settings under direct or indirect supervision of a nurse administrator and a physician. He/she is involved in diagnostics, prevention, and prescription of both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies. Last but not least, a nurse practitioner monitors the condition of patients after discharge as their safety is a guarantee that they will successfully avoid readmission (Masters, 2015).
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On the contrary, nurse administrators (despite the fact that they also need substantial knowledge of nursing theories and practice) are not directly involved in patient care or implement any practical nursing skills. Although they may contact patients, their immediate communication happens with nurses that they superintend. Implementation of their competencies requires management, accounting, and communicative skills as well as leadership qualities in order to deal with scheduling, monitoring the work of the staff, budget planning, etc. (Masters, 2015).
However, there are also non-clinical roles that both nurse practitioners and nurse administrators play. In case of the former, it is connected with informational function they perform being medical advisors for patients and their family members in issues concerning health promotion. In addition, they are also involved in medical research. As for the latter, they conduct research keep track of innovations in order to identify which ones can be introduced to improve the quality of care (Masters, 2015).
It is highly possible that our health care system will be subjected to considerable changes in the near future, which may lead to certain changes of nurses’ core competences. Even so, it will still be crucial for nurses to be able to translate theory into practice to sustain an evidence-based health care system (Masters, 2015).
All about NPs. (2017). Web.
LoBiondo-Wood, G., & Haber, J. (2014). Nursing research: Methods and critical appraisal for evidence-based practice. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Masters, K. (2015). Role development in professional nursing practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.