5 tips to manage imposter syndrome as a nurse practitioner

manage imposter syndrome

You don’t know anything. Why would any patient want to see you? Who are you to diagnose and treat this patient? You are an imposter, and someone will figure you out.

Harsh isn’t it?

While nurse practitioners do not learn how to manage imposter syndrome, many of us have experienced these negative thoughts at some point in their career (this is true for new and experienced nurse practitioners).

Imposter syndrome is of having thoughts of self-doubt, feeling like a fraud, and failing to recognize past accomplishments.

Maybe you had these thoughts as a nursing student. Or your first day on the floor as an RN, without a preceptor. Maybe you were a leader on the ICU but went back to school for FNP and felt like you didn’t know anything. I have had so many feelings of imposter syndrome I can’t even count. And I still get destructive thoughts at times!

5 tips to manage imposter syndrome

1. Imposter syndrome is more common than you realize.

Most people have had imposter syndrome in some form throughout their life. Even former first lady Michelle Obama acknowledges she suffers from imposter syndrome. It is our human nature to have this negative self-talk.

Imposter syndrome is more common than most nurse practitioners realize! As The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner, I have talked with dozens of new graduate AND experienced nurse practitioners who have struggled with imposter syndrome. (I have even struggled with imposter syndrome myself!) Not only can NPs have these negative thoughts about their jobs, but also their personal relationships, parenthood, etc.

So ask a friend, a colleague, a mentor if they have ever suffered from imposter syndrome. They have likely had these negative thoughts and limiting beliefs at some point in their life! It is easier to manage imposter syndrome when you realize how many people struggle.

2. Do the work.

In order to manage imposter syndrome, nurse practitioners need to become aware when these negative thoughts creep into your head. Pay attention to the words you are telling yourself. Realize the negative talk that comes into you head.

Would you talk that way to a friend? No, so why would you say those things to yourself.

It is not likely that these negative thoughts are true. For example, if you think “I’m a terrible nurse practitioner” is that accurate? Or did you have one bad experience and now you think you are a terrible nurse practitioner. I’m going to bet there are a lot of things you have done right.

By identifying the negative self-talk and acknowledging it is not the truth, you can then work on overcoming the limiting belief. Work on consciously exchanging the destructive words with positive statements. Exchanging our negative beliefs does not happen overnight. But the more you are aware and work on this, the easier it is to manage imposter syndrome.

3. Look at the proof.

Let your past accomplishments be the proof. You made it through nursing school. Passed the NCLEX. Got accepted to nurse practitioner school. Completed clinical hours. Graduated from NP school. Passed national certification exam. All while you were still living your life! These accomplishments make you worthy of assessing, diagnosis, and treating patients.

I have a list on my phone of all my past accomplishments: paying off student loans, raising two children, running a half marathon, etc. When I am feeling insecure or notice the negative self-talk, I look at this list. It reminds me of everything I have accomplished and makes me feel like a bada**!

Work on realizing everything you have already accomplished and eliminate those negative beliefs! This work will help you mange imposter syndrome.

4. Healthcare is ever changing.

No one can know everything there is to know about caring for patients. There is constant research, and the healthcare field is ever changing. There is absolutely no way we can know all the information. There will always be those challenging, unique cases. That is how we learn. I have seen family practice physicians with over 40 years of experience scratch their heads with a unique case.

Besides, each patient is unique with different comorbidities, different genetics, and different environmental/social factors. Sure there are clinical practice guidelines for the best way to treat a patient. But nurse practitioners need to strive to treat the specific patient.

5. Negative talk from others- It’s not you, it’s them.

If you have ever heard negative talk from other people, it can be hurtful. A spouse saying it’s a bad idea to go back to school. Other providers questioning your practice. Other moms at your kid’s school talking down to you for working full time.

Before you take their words to heart, think about where the statement is coming from. Maybe that person has their own insecurities they are dealing with. Maybe they do not totally understand the situation. Maybe there is a lack of information.

Maybe your spouse is worried that a post maters certificate will take too much time away from your family. Maybe the other provider never thought about using that medication to treat or does not realize there are new practice guidelines. Maybe the other mom wishes she could work full time. Whatever the case, the negative comments are generally not about you, but rather linked to other people’s emotions.

Additional resources to manage imposter syndrome

If you are suffering from imposter syndrome, just remember you are not alone! So many nurse practitioners (and humans in general) have struggled with these limiting beliefs. It is normal to have these thoughts.

However, these negative thoughts are likely holding you back from achieving your goals. That is why it is important to mange the imposter syndrome. Work through these negative thoughts and learn to become more confident and be proud of your success!

For more ways to manage imposter syndrome, check out The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner’s Control the Imposter Syndrome online course!

Control the imposter syndrome as a nurse practitioner

This mini course will teach how to stop doubting yourself, control the crippling negative thoughts, and feel confident as a nurse practitioner!

Don’t wait to manage the imposter syndrome, learn to control it today!

Erica D the NP is a family nurse practitioner and burnout coach. Erica created The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner to help overwhelmed APRNs create work-life balance, overcome nurse practitioner burnout, and advocate for themselves. The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner offers online courses, coaching, and support. Learn more at www.burnedoutnp.com

For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at www.npchartingschool.com

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**Full disclosure, this blog post may include affiliate links. I do receive a commission if any of the affiliate programs/services/supplies are purchased. This is at no extra cost to you but does allow me to continue to provide content as The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner! Thank you!

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