One of the greatest perks of nursing is the ability to advance within the field. The best way to climb the ladder as a nurse involves obtaining an advanced degree. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 56% of registered nurses (RNs) have a BSN or higher degree.
If you’re looking for greater autonomy as a nurse, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) might suit you.
There’s a growing demand for NPs and this guide will key you into position.
Specifically, we will cover:
- What is a nurse practitioner?
- What does a nurse practitioner do?
- What are the types of nurse practitioners?
- How do I become a nurse practitioner?
- What makes a good nurse practitioner?
- How much does a nurse practitioner make?
- What are the career prospects for nurse practitioners?
What is a nurse practitioner?
An NP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who works autonomously to manage patients’ health care and prevent disease. They must earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
These advanced degrees grant them greater authority than a registered nurse would have.
What does a nurse practitioner do?
In many ways, nurse practitioners are more like doctors than anything else. Their duties include:
- Prescribing medication
- Diagnosing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and injuries
- Ordering and interpreting medical tests
- Examining patients
- Informing patients about disease prevention
They also implement treatment plans for patients, collaborate with other health care workers and keep records of patient care. NPs must stay up to date with the methods and technology within the field by pursuing continuing education.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NPs hold prescriptive privileges in all 50 states and DC. However, their scope of practice depends on their specialty and the state they live in.
There are three categories that an NP can fall under: full practice (OR, WA, MN), reduced practice (NY, WI, UT) and restricted practice (CA, TX, FL).
In the states with full practice authority, the nurse practitioners do not have to work under a doctor’s supervision. In the reduced and restricted states, nurses must comply with and get a doctor to sign off on specific patient care decisions.
What are the types of nurse practitioners?
Nurse practitioners enjoy a wide degree of flexibility. There are many different specialties to choose from within the field, and each specialty requires a certain amount of training and certification. Each of the following specialties requires an MSN to practice.
Family Nurse Practitioner
This role is one of the more prominent specialties that you will find a NP perform. The family nurse practitioner (FNPs) engages individuals and families with primary health care. They also help inform and counsel families about living healthy.
Adult Nurse Practitioner
The adult nurse practitioner will mainly work with adult patients and help teach them how to manage chronic conditions while also providing physical exams, medications, and general healthy living practices.
Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
Geriatric NPs work with older patients. They provide physicals, monitor well-being and work with patients who have specific conditions like heart disease. Additionally, they educate families on a patient’s dietary and wellness needs.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
The women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) provides complete care to women, especially regarding their reproductive and gynecological health.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
The acute care nurse practitioner serves patients within critical care facilities or hospitals. They help patients when they are ill, sent to the hospital or following surgery. Their focus is on patients dealing with significant injury or illness.
Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner
The occupational health nurse practitioner works to heal and prevent workplace injuries. Additionally, they share information with employees on various healthy lifestyle choices.
These are just a few of the many specialties within the nurse practitioner field. Choosing your specialty comes down to fit and preference.
How do I become a nurse practitioner?
You can’t just wake up one day and become a nurse practitioner. There is a process. The following steps outline the process needed to become a NP.
Step 1: Become a registered nurse
You must earn an RN license to start an NP program. You can either achieve an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Step 2: Gain experience
It’s important for a potential nurse practitioner to gain experience as a registered nurse. Some programs require at least a year of prior nursing experience.
Step 3: Earn your MSN or DNP
You must have an MSN to become an NP. If you have a BSN, you are able to apply directly to an MSN program. However, if you only have an ADN, you will need to apply for an RN-to-MSN bridge program. This program permits you to earn a BSN while obtaining an MSN. Once you have an MSN, you can apply for DNP programs or a BSN-to-DNP bridge program if you didn’t obtain an MSN.
Step 4: Pass the certification exam within your specialty
Every nurse practitioner must pick a specialty. Your specialty dictates the type of certification exam you need to take.
Step 5: Obtain state licensure
After passing the exam, you must turn in your results and transcripts to your state to obtain a nurse practitioner license. Some states require that you apply for an additional prescriptive authority license that allows you to prescribe medicine. Other states require that a potential NP complete a supervised or collaborative practice.
That said, nurse practitioners need about six years of educational and clinical preparation to enter into the field. Once they are in the field, they must complete continuing education courses in order to maintain proper methods and keep up with technology.
What makes a good nurse practitioner?
A good NP needs a wide variety of skills to perform at their best. Below are some of the skills that make a great NP.
Mental and Physical Stamina
The best nurse practitioners have both physical and psychological stamina. Often, NPs must work on their feet for long hours. They deal with patients who express many emotions. These patients do not always convey warmth and positivity.
The NP needs to have the capacity to deal with these patients in earnest.
They need to handle stress and work well with a team.
The NP needs to work with a great deal of care and attention with their patients. They need to become an advocate for their patient’s needs. Every patient must inspire the same amount of time and attention as the next.
The NP also needs to have the people skills to navigate and care for the different patients they will deal with in each day.
Critical Thinking Skills
In addition to the traits we just mentioned, an NP must possess strong critical thinking skills. Given their authority and independence, a nurse must make rational, reasoned decisions for patients. This is where critical thinking comes in.
They must interpret, analyze and draw conclusions about information based on science and data.
In other words, they can’t just make decisions based on a gut instinct.
Nurse practitioners must have a strong sense of compassion when they perform their role. According to the National Institutes of Health, providing compassionate nursing can make patients feel more satisfied, which saves time and cost and boosts the morale of the team.
Also, compassionate NP can endure tough times with trying patients.
How much does a nurse practitioner make?
Additionally, this interactive map provides salary data on Nurse Practitioners across the United States:
What are the career prospects for nurse practitioners?
Fortunately, nurse practitioners will always be in demand within the nursing profession. According to the BLS, the projected change in employment over the next 10 years is about 45%. That’s a whopping 41% more than the typical growth rate of jobs.
This is due to a myriad of factors. However, one of the main reasons is that as the baby boomer population continues to age, they will require more nurses.
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