NEW ORLEANS — All nurse practitioners and physician assistants understand the ins and outs of their jobs, but there’s always room for growth. 

There are certain habits that can help clinicians transcend the daily grind to become leaders, according to a speaker at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2015 meeting.

“I wondered why some nurse practitioners (NPs) were just exceptional,” said Amelie Hollier, DNP, FNP-BC, FAANP, President, CEO of Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA). “It wasn’t that they were smarter or worked harder, although they probably did. I didn’t know what it was, and it gnawed at me. I wanted to know what made them different.”

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The answer, Hollier said, came after she was able to identify the shared traits of these model clinicians. She then adapted these common characteristics into the seven habits of highly effective nurse practitioners, but they can also apply to any profession.

#1: Operate from the inside out

The Golden Circle is a concept introduced by Simon Sinek. The circle, with three rings, represents how most people think. The majority can answer “what” (represented in the outer most ring) and “how” (the middle ring), but few can answer “why” (the center of the circle).

“Every NP knows what they do, and most know how they do it. But few know why,” said Hollier. The answer to the “why” identifies a person’s passion and purpose.

Figure 1. The Golden Circle theory.

“Exceptional NPs, regardless of where they work, or how long they’ve worked there, all operate from the inside out, and they know why they do what they do.”

#2: Look before your lead

Exceptional health care leaders don’t look backwards, but take time to reflect. Clinicians need to remember that they learn more when they make mistakes than when they get it right. 

“Vision comes from experience and history,” said Hollier. “Followers think one step at a time. Leaders think many steps ahead at a time.”