The emergency department where I work is freezing cold. I mean freezing. Summer in Tennessee where I live commonly sees temperatures in the upper 90’s, however, I can still be spotted carrying a fleece jacket with me into work. The other evening while pulling an overnight shift, I glanced at myself in the mirror. Fuzzy pull-on fleece over my scrubs, minimal make-up, and hair in a messy bun had me looking a little disheveled. 24 hours without sleep wasn’t helping the picture. ‘Professional’ was not a word I would use to describe my appearance. 

The night shift tends to operate in a more casual manner on all fronts, but I need to step up my game in the professionalism department at work. I’m not so young anymore, but I am commonly mistaken for a 20-something. As a young(ish) nurse practitioner, intentionality when it comes to professionalism is essential to up my cred. If you, too are a young nurse practitioner, the following practices will up your professional game, overcoming misgivings patients and employers may have based on your age and experience. 

1. Learn to handle tense interactions

Receiving negative feedback, constructive criticism, and working through disagreements at work isn’t easy. it is a skill to be practiced. Don’t avoid dealing with the issue at hand. Rather, practice your delivery so that the conversation comes more naturally. Focus on the facts at hand rather than emotions. Problem solving in tense situations is a skill that speaks to your professional development

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2. Dress for success

Like it or not, patients, coworkers, and higher-ups are judging you by the cover. Mirror the formality of the dress code of other providers in your practice. If you differ from others, take your appearance a step up rather than a step down. Attire in the healthcare setting can be quite casual, but this is no excuse for wrinkled scrubs or scuffed up kicks. Wear your dress code well.

3. Recognize that you are a manager

You may not have others formally report to you as a nurse practitioner, but chances are your job involves giving orders to coworkers. So, phlebotomists, medical assistants, and nurses are looking to you for leadership. Whether you have people reporting to you directly or indirectly, seek to improve your managerial skills. Read a book on coaching and management, or attend a medical practice management conference to get started.  

4. Set out to prove yourself

As a young and/or inexperienced nurse practitioner, you’ve got something to prove. Pour energy into your job. Go the extra mile. Don’t expect your coworkers or collaborating physician to answer each and every question you have. Find the answers on your own when possible. Challenge yourself to grow in knowledge and mastery of clinical skillsYour efforts won’t go unnoticed. 

5. Read, read, read

Keeping up to date with the latest in medicine is the perfect way to show your boss you’re going above and beyond. Subscribe to one or two professional journals or apps. Stay up to date with the latest clinical practices and healthcare news. A sound understanding of healthcare reform or the latest in Medicare reimbursement policies is sure to impress administrators. 

6. Rule-bending 

Bending the rules can be tempting, especially when you can get away with it. But, don’t be mistaken. It may seem that no one notices you slip in the side door 10 minutes late, latte in hand. They do. Arrive a few minutes early to work. Volunteer to stay late on occasion. Follow practice rules and protocol even when it isn’t convenient or when others are not. Avoid answering personal calls or texts during work hours. These small actions add up to create a glimmering professional image.

7. Be honest

You will screw up, own up to it.  If you don’t know or understand something, say so. Integrity is a must and will make you stand out as a valuable team member and stand-out employee. 

8. Ask ‘How’

If you aren’t meeting expectations, or if the expectations placed on you are unclear, ask for advice on how to meet them. Your boss may not realize you could use some tips for meeting the metrics expected of you. He or she will appreciate your efforts to understand and live up to performance expectations

9. Sport an upbeat attitude

Many medical practices are poisoned with complaining, gossip among employees, and overall bad attitudes. Stand-out professionals don’t take part in these behaviors. Avoid negative conversations and put a positive spin on your work day. Your professional image and job satisfaction depend on it. 

How are you perceived at work?


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