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What traits and attributes should family nurse practitioners have?

5th February 2018 Print

Before you enroll in an FNP program, it’s important to know what will be expected of you. Before hiring, hospital managers ask themselves this question: What traits and attributes should family nurse practitioners (FNP) have? As one, so should you, especially if you’re looking for a job. When picking the right candidate, managers look for the following traits.

1. Professionalism

According to an American Nurses Association article, healthcare executives value and look for professionalism in a nurse more than any other trait. In fact, the article went on to reveal these executives begin their scrutiny during a job interview.

How you present yourself determines whether you get the job, and if you do get the job, how quickly. So, when going for an interview, dress in formal wear and write professional resumes and cover letters.

2. Attention to Detail

When managers go through your resume and cover letter or scrutinize you from head to toe, they also look at how attentive you are to detail. Is your application full of grammar or typing errors? Are you well-groomed? These may seem petty details, but a deeper reason underlies this level of scrutiny.

Remember, as an FNP, your duties involve a lot of detail. For instance, you must examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Also, you’ll assess their medical histories. All the while, you cannot afford to make careless mistakes, such a missing some details. So, when you make careless mistakes in your application documents or grooming, managers fear you’ll transfer this careless behavior to your work.

3. Communication Skills

As an FNP, you work with people, both young and old, helping them to understand how to prevent diseases. This may sound straightforward, but it isn’t. According to an Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion report, health literacy among Americans is at an all-time low.

Apparently, only one out of every 10 people understands pertinent health issues, such as disease prevention, the long-term impact of a disease, or how to take medication. The rest can neither understand nor articulate their health needs. So, they suffer poor health.

To communicate with and instruct such patients, you must possess excellent interpersonal communication skills. And hiring managers know this. As a result, be articulate during the interview. This is a key skill you’ll likely learn when studying your degree. You can request information on what the personal skills aspect of the training will entail online, for example the Nursing@Georgetown program at

4. Multilingual Skills

Great communication skills have the greatest effect if your patient understands what you’re saying. A few decades back, you’d never have a problem communicating with a patient. After all, almost everyone spoke English.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. According to Spain’s Instituto Cervante, the US now has close to 40 million Spanish speakers. And in a surprising twist, the institute reports that, in the North and South America, only in Mexico do more people speak Spanish.

With that in mind, hiring managers first hire nurses speaking both English and Spanish before hiring everyone else.

So, even though you’re a good communicator, in addition to investing in your nursing degree, also invest in learning another language. The payoff will be worth it.

5. Computer Literacy

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology estimates that 96% of US hospitals have already switched from written patient records to electronic health records. And to manage these records - one of your duties as an FNP - you must use computers.

For this reason, nurses familiar with the EHR platform bring more skills to the interview table than those unfamiliar with it. And, of course, they’re hired first, a trend noted by the American Nurses Association.

So, even if you are computer literate, grow your information technology skills to include a proficiency in EHR and other health platforms.

6. Compassion

All the above skills, you can learn, including confidence. But the most important skill FNPs should have cannot be learned - compassion. And here’s why. Patients prefer an empathetic, listening nurse to a cold professional one. They feel valued and more at ease, making them open up about their illness and making your job that much easier.

Even better, being a compassionate nurse improves outcomes for both the patient and for you, especially for your career. A Scrubs Magazine study discovered the most successful nurses were the most empathetic.

Although we mentioned the value of professionalism, it shouldn’t be your sole career goal. And anyway, if the Scrubs Magazine study is anything to go by, compassion is the way to make it in your career. So, aim to touch and make a difference in people’s lives, and the hiring managers will sense this desire in you.


To succeed as an FNP, remain as professional as you possibly can. Also pay close attention to detail, for your effectiveness depends on it. Next, hone your computer skills and communication skills, learning another language if possible. In addition, learn how to be confident around patients. And finally, be compassionate.