Nurse Practitioner Job Description, Duties and Responsibilities

Working as a nurse practitioner requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Nurse practitioners are one type of advanced practice registered nurse. They may serve their patients as primary care providers, and day-to-day duties are very similar to those of doctors in their field or specialty. Individuals who are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner must first earn a bachelor's degree and secure licensure as a registered nurse. After gaining some clinical experience, the registered nurse must then complete a master's program and pass a state-administered nurse practitioner licensing exam.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are very good for nurse practitioners. Between 2014 and 2024, an additional 44,700 positions are predicted to become available, which is a 35% increase. In addition, the median salary for nurse practitioners as of May 2015 was $98,190.

Job Description

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse that helps with all aspects of patient care, including diagnosis, treatments and consultations. They may work in both inpatient and outpatient situations and can perform independently or as part of a treatment team. Generally, nurse practitioners perform the important task of educating patients about preventative care and prescribed treatments. They may also conduct physicals, order tests and serve as a patient's primary healthcare provider. Some nurse practitioners are also able to prescribe medications.

Duties and Responsibilities

Although there are common duties and responsibilities for all nurse practitioners, they generally vary by specialty. Specialties include primary care, pediatrics, geriatrics, oncology and psychiatric care.

Primary care nurse practitioners are generalists who work in family health clinics or hospitals. They provide general and preventative care, conduct check-ups, treat illnesses, order lab tests and prescribe medication for children and adults.

Many pediatric nurse practitioners work in consultation with doctors in a children's ward. Some deal exclusively with neonates, while others concentrate on older children, up to age 18, in the pediatric ward. In some work situations, pediatric nurse practitioners maintain their own patients and make decisions about necessary treatment.

Duties of a geriatric nurse practitioner include care, treatment, and counseling for elderly patients and their families. Often, after assisting doctors in determining appropriate treatment, geriatric nurse practitioners are responsible for designing an exercise program for recovering patients.

After diagnosis and consultation on the treatment regimen of cancer patients, the oncology nurse practitioner may advise the patient about possible participation in clinical trials. The follow-up, monitoring, and recording of the process is one of the main responsibilities of the oncology nurse practitioner. Results of trial participation are entered into research conclusions and are often published.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners often hold a Ph.D. They may act as therapists and also prescribe appropriate medications. Although not authorized to conduct psychological testing, they regularly work closely with psychologists and psychiatrists in reviewing test results and determining a course of action.

Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of healthcare specialties and will enjoy strong job prospects over the next decade, but the position requires several college degrees and a significant amount of training.

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