Professional growth and development: A lifetime endeavor

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After decades of defining the nurse practitioner (NP) role, expanding scope of practice, defending turf, and encountering obstacle after obstacle, the NP “old guard” is preparing to sit down and rest. To take our place, a new generation of NPs must be prepared to do battle with regulatory, educational, and policy threats to NP autonomy and practice. This special edition of JAANP was conceived while pondering the twilight of my many years as an NP, begun in the early days of the role when focus was on defining, clarifying, defending. Today, emphasis is still placed on defining, clarifying, defending, and at first glance, one might wonder if progress has been made. But pondering further, progress can be seen. More recognize NPs as primary care providers; some even select NPs over other providers. Full scope of practice, prescriptive authority, autonomy, and many more accomplishments can be cited. Yet threats to these advancements continue, and hard‐earned gains are not enjoyed by all NPs.
The intent of this special edition is to add to the preparation of a new generation of NPs armed to do battle against obstacles raised by other professional groups and even by those from nursing professionals within. Some of the essential components of the role not necessarily included in basic curricula must be acquired post‐graduation, and introductory acquisition can be found in articles in this special edition. As well, all professional NPs are required to act as stewards of the role, and offerings of this special edition raise awareness and afford some of the skills needed.
I enlisted the aid of two well‐known NP leaders, Rod Hicks and Mary Ellen Roberts, to share guest editorship. Both have made myriad contributions to the NP role, and exhibit exemplary professionalism through their organization leadership, educational expertise, and passionate stewardship of the NP role. Their depth and breadth of expertise was essential to choosing the role development dimensions to include. Collectively we prioritized topics, then identified and reached out to known NP thought leaders for their specialized knowledge. The result is a collection of papers we believe will assist NPs across their careers to attain new knowledge and apply the principles suggested.
In this editorial, we define profession and professionalism, and discuss the role of professionals as stewards. Aspects of professionalism pertinent to this special edition are described. Individual manuscripts of the edition are summarized to tie them to professional role development. Finally, we extract highlights from these manuscripts to list essential pearls of wisdom for professional nurses in NP roles.
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