Nurse Practitioners 101

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who go on to advanced nursing studies and specialize in different medical fields. A nurse practitioner is almost like a doctor and what they do oftentimes overlaps with the other profession.

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At a Glance[1]

Nurse PractitionersOther Job Titles: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Salary Range/Pay:
Median $89,960 per year ($43.25 per hour)
Education/Training Required:
Masters or doctorate degree in nursing
Desired Skills/Aptitude:
Compassion, attention to detail, patience, critical thinking
Certification/Licensing:
Each state requires licensing to practice
Locations with Best Opportunities:
[2] California, New York, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts
Employment Outlook[3]:
Expected growth by 6% through Aug 2014 (92% to 98% search interest from Google Trends)
Opportunities for Advancement:
Nurse practitioners can seek higher levels of responsibility in the business aspect of healthcare. They can also set up a private practice.

What a Nurse Practitioner Does

Nurse practitioners can treat a variety of health conditions in patients that are within their practice area. For example some nurse practitioners specialize in pediatric care. Generally, they can perform care by:

  • Writing prescriptions for medications
  • Diagnosing and interpreting test results and x-rays
  • Performing physical therapy
  • Submitting orders for tests
  • Performing physical exams
  • Educating patients and their primary caregivers
  • Documenting patient case history
  • Assisting in the management of chronic health conditions
  • Making referrals

As mentioned before, a nurse practitioner’s job resembles that of a doctor and oftentimes the patients whom they see cannot tell the difference.

The Workplace

Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings depending on their area of specialization and practice. These will be healthcare settings such as:

  • Private practices
  • Private doctor’s offices
  • Group/outpatient healthcare facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Residential and long-term care facilities
  • Hospice and pain management centers
  • Community and government healthcare facilities

Depending on the type of facility, nurse practitioners oftentimes are required to work in shift rotations. In private practice, they usually work normal business hours.

There jobs require them to interact with patients, their families, administrators, and other staff support. The job is somewhat physical and nurse practitioners oftentimes find that they must be on their feet for long hours, bend, and lift to handle disabled or incapacitated patients. 

Education and Certification

Because a nurse practitioner’s job is closely related to a doctor’s, they have masters and even doctorate degrees in nursing. The path to this begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing or BSN.

Following the completion of their BSN, nurses then continue their education to earn a master’s degree in nursing or MSN. Some continue and earn a Doctorate of Nursing Practice or DNP.

While in their graduate programs, nurse practitioners begin to branch off into specialty areas such as:

  • Pediatrics
  • Primary care
  • Oncology
  • Acute care
  • Psychiatric care

There are other specialties as well.

Graduate programs get deeper into the profession and cover such areas as human anatomy, medical ethics, pharmacology, and diagnosis of disorders. Some graduate schools may require that the candidates for their programs have experience working as a RN.

Training in the nurse practitioner graduate programs involves supervised clinical training.

Licensing

Nurse practitioners must be licensed in the state where they will be practicing. The requirements may vary slightly from state to state but usually require the individual to graduate from an accredited training program, pass the exam for the specific state, and be board-certified.

Some states may require further training and certification for performing job duties such as safe practices in administering medication.

There are several agencies that provide board certification. Some of these include:

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
  • National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

And there are others. As you can see, the board certifying agencies tend to deal in specialized areas just as the nurse practitioner does.

 



[1]              Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Nurse Practitioners, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm#(3)

[2]              Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Nurse Practitioners, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm#(3)

[3]              Google Trends, Nurse Practitioner Interest over Time, on the Internet at http://www.google.com/trends/explore?hl=en-US#q=Nurse%20Practitioner&cmpt=q