Turn Imposter Syndrome to Empowerment as a Nurse Practitioner
Imposter syndrome gets the best of us. No, it really does. For the new nurse practitioner or experienced one in new situations, the fear, doubt, and insecurities can be downright crippling.
We should first consider some barriers to overcoming imposter syndrome. One of which is the work place environment and culture where we practice. For many of us, we may be the only nurse practitioner in the organization or we are outnumbered in comparison to other staff. Another barrier is the bias we face against our advanced practice role. The combination of unclear expectations, lack of knowledge about our role, or comparison to physician colleagues sets us up for a disadvantage from the beginning of our jobs.
When you start with just those two factors in mind, the challenge to overcome imposter syndrome seems daunting. Trying to change a culture and break a bias as part of your onboarding process is unlikely and near impossible.
So what do you do?
What you can.
Face imposter syndrome head on with these strategies.
1. Normalize it. You and I, and likely every other nurse practitioner at some point has or will experience these imposter moments and distress. These feelings are intermittent and recurring. Like a bill on auto-pay, imposter syndrome can drain your account without you realizing. But take heart, we all go through it. Whether we call it imposter syndrome, imposterism, inner fraudulence, or my favorite reference-internal saboteur, it’s there and can be managed.
2. Become self aware. I am a firm believer that to become successful, we must first become self aware. Know what happens internally when imposter syndrome comes at you. Do you get anxious, shut down, lose focus, become less productive, avoid taking on new tasks or skills out of fear? Acknowledge what it looks like for you and take inventory of the personal effects.
3. Give yourself time and a whole lot of grace. In time, you’ll become more efficient with diagnosing, treating, evaluating, and managing your patients in practice. Key word is- time. Caveat is-with grace. Remember way back when you learned nursing theory-Benner’s nursing model talked about going from novice to expert. Imposter syndrome is unfortunately part of the transition process. But the good news is that it does get better. As a new grad nurse practitioner, you’ve learned so much and applying that knowledge in different situations happens in stages over time. Often, we’re hard on ourselves and set high and unrealistic expectations to perform at our peak 100%.
4. Lean on support. In life and in practice, you’re never alone. Although you may be a solo provider or feel isolated at work, please know that other nurse practitioners go through imposter syndrome. Reach out to colleagues, former classmates, friends, and/or family. You can join our online community for support here. Talk openly about what you’re going through with someone who understands. You can also connect with a mentor who is experienced in guiding nurses through the transition of becoming an NP.
5. Acknowledge your accomplishments. High performers and perfectionists seem to be more affected by feelings of imposterism and have difficulty accepting success in professional development. Recall the work you’ve put in to get where you are. The years of schooling, the combined efforts of working and maintaining life, the hours of studying and clinical rotations— you put it in the effort. Track your success, look back at the different levels of nursing you’ve gone through and achieved. Becoming a nurse practitioner is no small feat. Give yourself credit. You deserve to be where you are, you earned it!
6. Reframe your energy. When we shift the energy from the imposter syndrome to empowerment, it becomes a win-win situation. We win and our patients win. Shift your mindset to revisit why you became a nurse practitioner in the first place. You have valuable skills the world needs in a way that only you can present it. Affirm your place in practice with daily declarations of positive statements to boost your confidence and ditch negative thoughts. Lastly, try the art of journaling. For a few moments during the day, record your thoughts, your heart, and your wins. It’s a freeing practice that helps you become the nurse practitioner you know you’re meant to be.
Which one of these strategies will you put into place today?