What is every nurse practitioner (NP) required to know once he or she graduates from NP school? These requirements are defined and agreed upon by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF). The NONPF created the first set of competencies in 1990; the most recent updates were incorporated in 2012.
These core competencies apply to all nurse practitioners, regardless their medical specialty or patient population focus. Nurse practitioner core competencies were created by experts in clinical practice and education. The task force behind the 2012 update included various nurse practitioner organization and certification boards, and they created sub-groups of experts for each population focus.
NONPF has defined nine broad areas of core competence:
Each of these is subdivided into specific objectives that every nurse practitioner must demonstrate in order to graduate NP school. Furthermore, NP schools use the core competencies to design their curricula to ensure that students gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to practice as licensed independent practitioners. The NONPF asserts that achievement of these competencies is of greater value than the total number of clinical hours a student performs.
These competencies ensure that nurse practitioners graduate with a comprehensive background in medical sciences. All nurse practitioner students are required to take foundational pathophysiology and pharmacology, but depending on their specialty, they may take additional courses. Psychiatric nurse practitioners often take courses in neuroscience whereas neonatal nurse practitioners take courses in neonatology. Scientific core competencies also include knowledge and understanding of clinical practice guidelines, evidence-based practice, translational research, and treatment of vulnerable and diverse patient populations.
The scientific foundation core competencies defined by the NONPF include the following:
Leadership competencies focus on professional accountability, scholarship, and advocacy. These skills ensure that nurse practitioner students understand their scope and standards of practice and that they are prepared to lead healthcare teams. The leadership competencies also encompass cultural sensitivity, engagement in professional organizations, and communication skills.
The leadership core competencies include the following:
Quality care, as defined by the NONPF, refers to the degree to which health services increase the desired health outcomes consistent with professional knowledge and standards. Quality competencies focus on understanding how to access and use information databases and how to critically evaluate research findings.
The quality core competencies include the following:
Practice inquiry competencies focus on translational research, i.e., taking academic research and applying it to the clinical setting. These competencies ensure that nurse practitioner students understand how to apply research to improve their patients’ health outcomes.
The practice inquiry core competencies include the following:
Information literacy, as defined by the NONPF, refers to the use of digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and effectively communicate information. The goal of these competencies is to teach nurse practitioner students how to use available technology to enhance the safety and health outcomes of their patients. To achieve these objectives, NP schools may require students to take an informatics course.
The technology and information literacy core competencies include the following:
Health policy, as defined by the NONPF, refers to the set of decisions pertaining to health, which influence health resource allocation. These can be made at organizational, local, state, national, and global levels. These competencies teach nurse practitioner students how to influence legislation to improve health issues and social problems like poverty, literacy, and violence. Students may be required to take a specific health policy or healthcare economics course in order to achieve these competencies.
The policy core competencies include the following:
The health delivery system competencies refer to the planning, development, and implementation of public and community health programs. These competencies also educate students on healthcare reform and organizational decision-making.
The health delivery system core competencies include the following:
These competencies encompass understanding the ethical implications of scientific advances and learning to negotiate ethical dilemmas specific to that student's patient population.
The ethical core competencies include the following:
The independent practice competencies ensure that a nurse practitioner can function as a licensed independent practitioner. The NONPF defines a licensed independent practitioner as an individual with a recognized scientific knowledge base, who is permitted by law to provide care and services without direction or supervision. These competencies encompass the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients within the student’s population focus. For example, a psychiatric nurse practitioner would learn to diagnosis and treat mental illness and addiction.
The independent practice core competencies include the following:
The NONPF taskforce used their expertise along with the following resources to develop the most recent nurse practitioner core competencies.