Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses with an advanced level of education and training. These nurses can diagnose and treat common ailments and provide their patients with advice, care, coordination and chronic disease management.
To understand why nurse practitioners are so versatile, it is important to know what their day-to-day jobs entail. While an RN may work in the intensive care unit of a hospital, the NP might be working in oncology or palliative care. NPs’ scope of practice may vary by state. Still, they usually deliver primary healthcare to patients, including performing physical exams and diagnosing illnesses and injuries, which gives them far more flexibility than an RN.
How to become a nurse practitioner
Nurse practitioners must complete extensive education, training, and work experience to qualify as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This guide will give you everything you need to know about becoming a nurse practitioner.
Graduate high school
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is graduating high school. This will involve taking courses in biology, chemistry and math. In addition, take the SAT or ACT for college admission requirements.
Doing so will prepare you for the next steps of your journey. By this point, you will have completed all the prerequisites needed to apply for any graduate program.
Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or equivalent
The next step is getting the necessary higher education, which you can do by earning an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A bachelor’s degree is crucial as it is required when applying for advanced practice registered nurse licensure.
Graduates with a BSN will have more opportunities than those with an ASN or lesser degrees, though they may require additional coursework.
Become an RN (registered nurse)
After earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing or an equivalent, you must gain the necessary experience by becoming an RN. At this stage, you can work as an RN in any healthcare setting and with any specialty that interests you.
You can achieve all this while continuing to take classes and gaining more clinical experience, on top of what is required for an RN.
Earn a master’s degree in nursing (MSN)
As you now know, nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who can diagnose, prescribe medications, and provide treatment plans for routine illnesses. To become a nurse practitioner, you must earn an MSN degree in nursing. This degree can take up to two years, depending on your chosen university and how fast you complete your required coursework.
All accredited nursing schools require applicants to have graduated from an accredited baccalaureate or higher-level nursing program before being eligible for admission into their graduate programs.
Take and pass your region’s required certification(s)
Once you have completed and earned a master’s degree in nursing, you will need to take and pass the necessary certification exams. These certifications may vary from state to state, so it is essential to research the requirements for your region. After obtaining these certifications, you can apply for NP positions at hospitals, clinics and more.
The range of career opportunities available to nurse practitioners
Are you a nurse who is considering making the transition to becoming a nurse practitioner? If so, you are lucky because many different nurse practitioner specialties and career opportunities are available to nurses who choose this path.
With an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, you will access many clinical settings where you can gain the experience needed to be a successful nurse practitioner.
You will also get first-hand experience with continuing education courses that will give you an edge in today’s competitive job market. Let us take a closer look at the different specialties that nurse practitioners can pursue:
Nurse practitioners can work in various settings, but one of the most popular places to find them is urgent care centers. Urgent care centers provide on-site care for common illnesses and injuries for which people often need immediate attention.
Their services are quick and convenient, unlike waiting hours in a hospital emergency room for treatment. And because they deal with these types of cases all day long, they know how to diagnose problems quickly and efficiently.
These clinics also offer weekend hours, so they are available when doctors’ offices are not open or when medical emergencies happen outside regular office hours.
Pediatric nurse practitioners can work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics and school health centers. Their duties may include physical exams, immunizations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, advice on child development and behavior, and contraception counseling and education.
They may also help diagnose chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes. In some states, pediatric nurse practitioners can prescribe medication without the supervision of a physician.
Nurse practitioners in a hospital’s neonatal unit can care for newborns and their mothers. One of their primary responsibilities is educating new mothers on caring for themselves and their new babies.
This role includes teaching them about breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and safe sleeping practices. They also give medical care to babies, such as immunizations, well-child checkups, and treatments for common illnesses.
Other responsibilities may include providing nutritional guidance and identifying which infants might be at risk for developmental delays or other conditions.
Nurse practitioners work with patients of all ages, including children, young adults and seniors. Some nurse practitioners specialize in geriatrics, the branch of medicine that deals with the care of an elderly population.
With the aging population comes chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. Common ailments include Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, hypertension, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
A geriatric NP will also manage long-term care for a senior, which may be provided by home health aides or nursing home staff. They also work closely with primary care physicians to provide medical treatment for these common conditions in a way that is both caring and efficient.
One of the most common types of cancer is breast cancer. In fact, studies suggest that one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. The treatment for this type of cancer can vary based on the stage and severity but usually includes chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.
One crucial job a nurse practitioner can have is to provide care for patients with breast cancer by delivering such treatments and educating patients about the disease. Some nurse practitioners specializing in oncology are certified cancer care nurse practitioners or certified clinical nurse specialists. These nurses work specifically with people who have been diagnosed with any form of cancer.
Family nurse practitioners can perform various tasks and responsibilities. These tasks include diagnosing diseases, giving vaccinations, prescribing medications, treating common illnesses and injuries, and providing general healthcare to families.
They work in all types of settings, from hospitals to private practices. Family nurse practitioners may be the first to greet you and provide care in a hospital setting.
Their area of expertise includes labor and delivery. They may specialize in pediatrics or women’s healthcare in a clinic or private practice setting.
Nurse practitioners provide comprehensive and coordinated women’s healthcare to patients of all ages. They receive training to diagnose and treat various health conditions, including gynecological problems, reproductive health issues, pregnancy-related concerns and childbirth. Nurse practitioners also educate women on the importance of good nutrition and exercise.
Nurse practitioners may also find a rewarding career in psychiatry. Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A nurse practitioner with experience in mental health might be able to assist a psychiatrist by working as a psychiatric mental health specialist (PMHS). They can help people with major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar disorder.
These practitioners help patients recover from the disease by teaching them to cope with their symptoms using coping skills and psychotherapy. Patients might also be prescribed medication from the PMHS or a psychiatrist if necessary.
Emergency room care
In an emergency room, nurse practitioners are often called upon to provide initial medical care for patients. This may include diagnosing and treating various illnesses or injuries, including burns, fractures, heart attacks and more. They may also be responsible for educating family members about the patient’s condition to help them understand the treatment.
Hospice and palliative care
Nurse practitioners in hospice and palliative care offer patients a wide range of services, including pain management, counseling, psychological assessment and end-of-life care.
Some nurse practitioners may also be called upon to provide clinical education to other healthcare professionals. As a result, they often serve as mentors or preceptors for students of nursing or medicine that are completing their internships or residencies.
Nurse practitioners are valuable assets to any medical team. They can provide care that is high quality, cost-effective and accessible. From pediatrics to geriatrics, many different types of NP careers are available.
In addition to working in all medical specialties, NPs can also work in health administration, consulting, public policy development, public health education and research. If you enjoy working with people and love nursing, becoming an NP might be the perfect fit.