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Nurse’s Week: Transitioning From RN to DNP

Austin Clark, BSN ‘18, DNP ‘22, shares his experience transitioning from a registered nurse to a nurse practitioner.

Transitioning From RN to DNP

Transitioning from a registered nurse to a nurse practitioner is no easy feat. There are the educational requirements, increases in scope of practice, legal and regulatory requirements, and interpersonal and leadership responsibilities that come with your role as a nurse practitioner. This transition, like any other, has an adjustment period in which you slowly become comfortable and confident in your new role. I want to share my experience and struggles during my first year in practice and give you a peek behind the curtains of what this transition looked like for me. Leaving my role as a bedside nurse and becoming a nurse practitioner was challenging, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I transitioned from a medical ICU nurse to a nurse practitioner working for a critical care medicine team. That meant I was caring for the very same population of patients as a provider that I cared for as a bedside nurse. I was working as a provider alongside the very same nurses who had trained me and guided me through my first days, months, and years as a nurse. For those of you who have made the same transition, you understand that this comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. You may feel the need to step back into the scope of practice you had as a registered nurse, overextending yourself by taking on some of the responsibilities designated to your nurses. You may feel the need to overexplain yourself in an attempt to reassure your colleagues that you know what you are doing. It isn’t easy to simultaneously step into your new role as a provider and navigate the dynamics of working with nurses who were once your peers. That being said, take comfort in knowing that your patients are in the hands of very capable nurses, as you have learned firsthand.

Advice To Those Considering The Transition

For those of you who may be considering making this type of transition, it is important to consider in advance how you might prepare yourself to handle these situations. For me, setting expectations and boundaries were important. Although you may want to help with things on the unit, remember that you have your own responsibilities to take care of first. When questioned about an order you placed, be clear and concise in explaining the rationale of why you placed it. That said, it is also important to show humility. Remember that these nurses have spent years caring for this specific population, and there will be times where they catch something you missed. You won’t know every answer to every question, and there will be times when you need to ask a more seasoned colleague or reach out to your specialist for help.

Although your first year as a nurse practitioner may be challenging, it is important to reflect on the years of advanced training you received to obtain your license and prescribing authority. You wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t a capable provider. When you are feeling lost or are doubting yourself, it is essential to know that you are not alone. Self-doubt will fade with experience, and you will become more comfortable in your role with time and experience.

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