How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are also known as advanced practice nurses. They are registered nurses who have obtained additional education and training in a specialty area of their choice (see: types of nurses). NPs are tested and certified on a national level but are still required to sit for and pass the state board exam for the state in which they want to be employed.
NPs treat their patients both physically and mentally. In some states they work much like a doctor would, and even perform many of the same duties. They have a well-deserved prestige within the field because they have the education to treat and care for patients in the highest regard. And they not only treat patients but also try to teach them how to live a life full of wellness and health. At times NPs will also work very closely with families to ensure that care is always being provided properly.
Specialties within the field include mental health (PMHNP), adult health (ANP), gerontology (GNP), women's health (WHNP), family health (FNP), pediatrics (PNP), neonatology (NNP), occupational health (ANP) and oncology (ONP).
NP Job Responsibilities
NPs have many different roles and responsibilities within the health care profession. The responsibilities of an NP depend on which type of facility they work in and whether or not they have chosen to become specialized. Some common duties for NPs are:
- Diagnosing, treating and monitoring patients with illnesses or diseases
- Evaluating and examining patients both physically and mentally
- Performing routine lab test and then reviewing the results
- Requesting treatments like physical therapy or X-rays
- Prescribing prescription drugs when needed.
- Counseling patients about making lifestyle changes to increase their health
All NPs in the US must be certified on a national level. Nurse practitioners are regulated by the state, which means that the scope of what they allowed to perform will vary from state to state. In some states NPs work independently, while in some other states they must work and collaborate with physicians.
NPs can be found working in many different types of care facilities such as hospitals, clinics, universities, public health departments, hospice care facilities, nursing home and more. Just as diverse as the field of nursing so is the scope of practice for NPs.
NP Job Requirements
There are many steps of education involved in getting a job as a nurse practitioner. The first step is to become an RN by passing the national RN exam. Then a specialty area must be chosen.
After that, it will be necessary to enroll in a NP school program, which effectively will give you a master's degree in the specialty that you choose. After you have fulfilled these requirements you must sit for two exams and pass them both before you can start working in any facility as a NP.
Some NPs will complete their NP training in their spare time or do it part time while working as an RN in the field. Other people choose not to enter the working field until they have completed all the steps required.
Obviously the quicker you get through the course, the faster you will be working as a nurse practitioner. If you need to work while attending school, you'll have the luxury of entering the work force with more experience, and you will have been earning a salary in the meantime.
NP Training & Degrees
The first step all NPs need to take is to become a RN and then go on to complete their education to the NP level. All together this education can take as little as four but up to six years to complete. The course work can be completed all at once or in sections with breaks in between.
The NP program combines both classroom courses and skills courses that are conducted within facilities. Most states require a minimum level of a master's degree in nursing, but NP programs are designed to include this within the course work. Once a person has reached the NP level of education they must sit for and pass both a national board certification in their specialty of choice and the state board exam for the state in which they wish to work.
If an individual currently holds an AA degree or some type of nursing diploma, there are programs that are meant to bridge students into the NP program such as the MN and MSN.
Did You Know? The first NPs were educated at the University of Colorado in 1965. Today, nearly 6,000 new NPs are prepared each year at colleges and universities.
NP Salary & Benefits
Once you have your NP certification you can expect to make somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000 per year. Although the NP certification weighs heavily on an offered salary, there are other factors that will come into play. For instance, the state in which the nurse is employed, the years of experience she has in the field, as well as the type of facility will all influence where in the range a NPs salary will fall.
Often nurses who are working as NPs say the biggest benefit of their career is not having to report to physicians for every little detail, and this allows them to care for and treat patients more thoroughly. Not only that, but they also earn some of the best wages in the nursing industry, have a high amount of prestige among nurses, and really get to be involved with the care of their patients. It is very common today to be scheduled for a doctor's visit, but actually be seen by a nurse practitioner.
If you have thought about becoming a nurse but don't think you want to work as an RN or NP because you love to be a management position, you might find the next page very interesting. On it, we'll delve into nurse manager jobs - what they require, what they do, and how to get them.
Nurse Practitioner Jobs Summary
- Nurse practitioner jobs are at the top of the many nurse specialty fields
- They earn in the top percentile of all nurse salaries nationwide
- NPs have the freedom to treat patients without having to report to physicians for everything
- These nursing professionals provide the highest quality care available
- They get to advocate prevention not just treatments with patients