Nurse Practitioner

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

What Is a Nurse Practitioner

Summary: Nurse practitioners are a highly skilled and versatile group of healthcare professionals.

Graduate-Level College Classes Help Prepare Nurses to Become Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners fill an essential role in the healthcare field and take on many responsibilities and tasks in patient care settings. But with an array of nursing field titles—like Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), and more—how does a nurse practitioner stand out and differ? In this article, we’ll discuss the career and education pathways to becoming a nurse practitioner.

The Pathway to a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are nurses who have received additional education and licensure to work alongside or independently of doctors. For example, say you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, here are the key milestones to check off: 

  1. First, you become a registered nurse with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN).
  2. Next, you take graduate-level college classes, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, to become a nurse practitioner.
  3. Then, you must successfully pass a national exam.
  4. You’ll also want to check on licensure, since additional licenses may be required to work in certain states.
  5. Finally, you’re a nurse practitioner that’s ready and prepared to work in any healthcare setting

Earning an advanced degree can be costly in both time and resources. To offset some of the costs, a registered nurse may be able to work while earning their nurse practitioner’s degree. According to NursingProcess.org, some employers also pay or reimburse a portion or all tuition costs. There are also federal grants, state grants, and scholarships that will help pay for college if nurse practitioners are willing to work in locations with a shortage of healthcare providers upon graduation.

The Role of the Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are different from other nursing roles and share many of the same responsibilities as doctors. In some healthcare settings, they may even be the primary healthcare provider instead of a doctor. Here are some of the tasks nurse practitioners can do:

  1. Diagnose and treat diseases
  2. Perform physical examinations
  3. Prescribe medications
  4. Order medical tests
  5. Direct treatment plans for patients
  6. Supervise other nurses or medical professionals in patient care
  7. Consult with or be supervised by doctors or work independently (their degree of independence depends on the state in which they work)

Nurse Practitioner Workplaces

Where will you find a nurse practitioner working? Nurse practitioners can be found in clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, private practices, schools, or for companies as their in-house healthcare provider. Nurse practitioners not only have the ability to supervise nurses or healthcare teams, but they can also serve as educators in colleges and universities for nursing programs. A nurse practitioner can also choose to work with a certain group of patients. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, specialty nurse practitioners can include: 

  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner
  • Family practice nurse practitioner
  • Oncology nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric nurse practitioners
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Emergency room nurse practitioner 

The Future of the Nurse Practitioner Field

According to the BLS, the need for nurse practitioners will grow by at least 40% through 2031—much faster than other occupations. An aging population, a lack of doctors in rural areas, new healthcare laws, and telehealth are creating opportunities for nurse practitioners to fill healthcare gaps, according to NursingProcess.org. With this high demand, nurse practitioners can command a six-figure salary and often choose their location, schedule, and healthcare setting.

Nursing remains one of the most trusted professions by the public in Gallup polls. Because of their education and experience, nurse practitioners are some of the most skilled and knowledgeable nurses in the medical field and can improve patient health through personalized care and advocacy. For those who are up to the challenge, a career as a nurse practitioner offers leadership and growth opportunities in addition to an impactful role in countless patients’ wellness and well-being. Find more information, join conversations, and connect with nurses and healthcare pros-in-training in the Tallo Community.

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