Nurse Practitioner Courses and Classes Overview

A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse who helps diagnose and treat patients. Coursework for nurse practitioners is generally taken through a complete graduate program. Continue reading to explore some sample courses in detail.

Essential Information

Aspiring nurse practitioners usually pursue a nursing master's degree, although dual bachelor's and master's degree programs do exist. These programs often are specialized. For example, a student might focus on family, pediatric, neonatal or gerontological nursing. Before beginning a nurse practitioner program, one usually must have already earned a bachelor's degree and registered nurse credentials. Clinical nursing experience is another common prerequisite for admission.

Regardless of the nursing specialty one chooses, nurse practitioner programs share some core coursework, such as research methods, statistics, healthcare ethics, anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology. Pharmacology is studied to prepare students to prescribe medications for health conditions. After completing their core courses, students take courses in their specialty. They also do a practicum in which they apply all of what they learned by working with patients. Graduates usually have to get certified to work in their state as a nurse practitioner. Certification in a specialty may also be necessary for licensure.

Common Courses for Nurse Practitioners

The following are descriptions of several core courses found in nurse practitioner programs.


This course examines pathophysiology, which is used to diagnose and treat illness in primary health care contexts. Students examine factors affecting the health and illness. Students learn about disease origination, development and symptoms. They also learn how to treat common health conditions. Pathophysiology courses can be taken at the beginning of a nurse practitioner program as a foundation for future courses.

Roles and Responsibilities

This course covers the roles and responsibilities of the nurse practitioner in augmenting client health and health services. Students examine the history of nurse practitioners, client relations and legal and ethical considerations. Aspiring nurse practitioners learn about interdisciplinary teams, health policy formation and political strategies. This course can sometimes be incorporated into other courses in the program.


Taken towards the end of a nurse practitioner program, students learn about the therapeutic uses and effects of drugs for primary health care. Students learn about common medications and explore adverse effects and alternatives to drug therapy. Students learn how to write prescriptions that meet state and federal standards.

Advanced Assessment and Diagnostic

Nurse practitioners assume many of the duties of a physician, including assessing and diagnosing health issues. The course places emphasis on assessment procedures, including history taking, physical assessment and diagnostic testing. Students use pharmacology, anatomy and physiology knowledge in this course.

Integrative Practicum

In the practicum, aspiring nurse practitioners practice the skills they learned in didactic courses in clinical settings. Students discuss and apply theories about the management of patients and practice taking a leadership role in healthcare settings. All nurse practitioner program courses must be successfully completed before taking this course; completion of the practicum is the final component of the nurse practitioner program.

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