Nurse Practitioner (NP) Video: Educational Requirements and Career Options
Nurse Practitioner (NP) Video: Educational Requirements and Career Options Transcript
If you're already a registered nurse or are interested in an advanced nursing career, consider becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). Nurse practitioners have more responsibilities than a registered nurse (RN), including the ability to write prescriptions and work without a physician's supervision. As part of their commitment to providing patient care, many nurse practitioners have a specialty. A family nurse practitioner (FNP), provides general health care to families, including both adults and children. A master's degree in nursing and a professional license are required to become a nurse practitioner.
Nurse practitioners have privileges beyond those available to registered nurses. A nurse practitioner is allowed to write prescriptions and diagnose patients, just like a physician. Unlike registered nurses, a nurse practitioner is able to work without direct supervision of a doctor. These abilities, plus an advanced knowledge of modern medical practices make nurse practitioners irreplaceable health care professionals. Nurse practitioners usually begin as registered nurses before earning a master's degree in nursing and an additional professional certification.
Job Duties and Skills
Nurse practitioners perform many of the same duties as registered nurses, including taking patient histories, administering medication and assisting physicians. However, they also perform many of the same duties as medical doctors, including prescribing medications, diagnosing illnesses, interpreting test results and performing some medical procedures. These are significant skills that allow nurse practitioners to work independently providing first class patient care.
Nurse practitioners also perform duties specific to their chosen specialty. For example, a neonatal nurse practitioner will make use of the specialized instruments used to monitor and treat newborns and recognize symptoms of diseases and infections specific to their patients. Family practice nurse practitioners must be able to treat a wide range of common illnesses and also must be able to work with all ages of patients. An emergency room nurse practitioner must be ready for anything, from an outbreak of a contagious disease to a serious injury caused by a car accident.
The most common path to a career as a nurse practitioner begins with completion of an undergraduate nursing program and the acquisition of a registered nursing certification. Most will then work in a clinical setting for at least a year or two before entering a master's degree program. The master's degree program includes an advanced study of anatomy, physiology, epidemiology, virology, pharmacology and other medical topics. Students are taught how to perform a variety of medical and diagnositc procedures. After completing an accredited master's degree program, students are able to apply for state licensure. Many nurse practitioners also obtain a national certification offered through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or another institution. The master's degree and licensing process may take anywhere from one to two years.
During their initial training and work experience students commonly develop specializations. The most common specializations for nurse practitioners include pediatric, adult care, family, women's health, geriatric, general practice, acute care and neonatal. Nurses who choose to pursue one of these specialties are taught to perform unique procedures and patient care techniques for their area of focus.
Some universities offer 'bridge programs' designed to allow students with an undergraduate degree but no registered nursing certification or experience to become nurse practitioners. These programs confer a master's degree and prepare students for both the registered nursing and nurse practitioner licensing processes. These programs are highly selective, only offering enrollment to students with exemplary educational credentials.
Today, nurse practitioners are thought of as physician extenders, bridging the gap between doctors and nurses. Most nurse practitioners are employed in clinical roles in order to make the most of treatment skills. Despite this, some nurse practitioners do work in administrative or leadership positions, which can limit their patient contact.
Common employers of nurse practitioners include hospitals, clinics and nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nurse practitioners are well suited to fill special needs, including servicing extremely rural and densely populated urban communities where budgeting and adequate staffing are at issue.
In most states, nurse practitioners are able to open their own clinic or practice. This offers flexibility and independence not found in many health care professions. Of course, these benefits do come at a price, usually in the form of long hours, heavy patient loads and stressful work environments.