Nurse Practitioner: Education, Schools, and Career Overview
A nurse practitioner is typically responsible for the holistic management of a patient's health. As a direct care provider, a nurse practitioner is often the first point of clinical contact. The core philosophy of the profession of nurse practitioners is to manage health and wellness. Nurse practitioners are strongly oriented toward health education and promotion as well as disease prevention. They are strong advocates for healthy lifestyles and are committed to assisting their patients with maintaining or improving their overall health.
Nature of Work
Nature of work of a nurse practitioner often varies depending on clinical specialty, although some activities are generally the same across all settings. Nurse practitioners are typically required to assess conditions, make an accurate diagnosis in response to patient complaints, order diagnostics, and, where allowed by state licensure, prescribe appropriate medications and treatments. Additional responsibilities may include fielding advice calls from patients, assisting with procedures, counseling patients and families about issues related to illness and disease and performing physicals.
In certain states a nurse practitioner’s job may include dealing with more complicated conditions that require medical management, but in other states, the job may be more oriented towards patient’s assessment and treatment in collaboration with a physician.
Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
According to the Gerontological Advance Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA), geriatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses with specialized education in the diagnosis, treatment and management of acute and chronic conditions in general. They are typically required to earn a master’s or post-master’s degree. However, they are encouraged to eventually earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree because, according to GAPNA, the DNP degree better reflects current clinical competencies and better prepares graduates for changes anticipated within the healthcare system.
After earning their degree, geriatric nurse practitioners may qualify for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) examination. The ANCC typically requires candidates to be graduates of geriatric nurse practitioner programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNA).
Adult Nurse Practitioner
An adult nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse that has typically earned a graduate-level education and undergone specialized training to deliver medical and healthcare services specifically for the adult population. These specialty care providers typically assist patients by assessing, diagnosing, and treating both acute and chronic health afflictions.
Adult nurse practitioners are typically required to hold a master’s degree, post-master’s certificate, or a doctoral degree in order to qualify for entry-level positions in the United States.
In terms of credentials, adult nurse practitioners are typically required to be certified by ANCC and obtain occupational licensure from the board of nursing specific to the state in which they intend to practice.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
A nurse practitioner is typically a registered nurse with a master of science or other graduate degree that includes education and clinical training in a specialty population. The registered nurse then may apply for National Board certification from one of several national certification agencies and take the required examination.
Master’s/Doctoral Degree in Nursing Practice
The typical education necessary for a nurse practitioner is a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, from an accredited school. For full-time students, it typically takes four to seven years to complete a nurse practitioner education. A candidate who already has a baccalaureate degree in another field and who is considering a career as a nurse practitioner may register in an accelerated program. These programs can be completed in three years, but they are typically very intense. These programs pack into three years the same amount of instruction that a traditional program would cover in six years.
Certification and Licensure
To become certified as a nurse practitioner, candidates may need to meet the eligibility requirements for taking the national examination administered by ANCC There are other agencies that confer certifications in clinical specialty areas as well.
The eligibility requirements typically include:
- completing a graduate level nurse practitioner program at either the master's or doctoral level that includes courses specific to the student's specialty area
- being licensed as a registered nurse
- completing 500+ clinical hours of practical experience
- passing the national National Clinical License Examination (NCLEX) examination
The examinations are typically given several times a year around the country, and many specialty area examinations are now offered online. Once this examination has been passed and the certification has been issued, a candidate typically files a second licensing application with his or her state to apply for a nurse practitioner license.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Nurse practitioners typically work as primary or specialty care providers. They may consult with physicians about potential patient care, prescribe medicine, perform exams, and help patients figure out ways to improve their overall health. Because nurse practitioners in some states are typically allowed to work independently, this allows them to fill gaps where primary care providers are in short supply. In states where nurse practitioners are typically required to work under the supervision of or in collaboration with physicians, a qualified provider that can complete preliminary assessments and start clinical management for patients may be a valuable extension of both primary care services and clinical specialty care.
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- American Nurses Credentialing Center, accessed March 2019, http://www.nursecredentialing.org/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupation Employment and Wages, Nurse Practitioners, March 2018, https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes291171.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Practitioner, April 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
- Gerontological Advance Practice Nurses Association, accessed March 2019, https://www.gapna.org/