What is a Nurse Practitioner?
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 meet extensive education requirements. They must first earn a bachelor's degree and secure licensure as a registered nurse. After gaining some clinical experience as a registered nurse, they must then complete a master's program and pass a state-administered nurse practitioner licensing exam.
|Degree Level||Master's degree; PhD for psychiatric nurse practitioner positions|
|Degree Field(s)||Nurse practitioner graduate program|
|License/Certification||Licensure as a registered nurse is required to enter the program; nurse practitioner license is required to obtain a position|
|Experience||Clinical experience required before completing nurse practitioner program|
|Key Skills||Compassion; medical aptitude; communication and problem-solving skills|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||31% increase*|
|Median Annual Salary (2018)||$113,930*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).
Nurse Practitioner 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 many new nurse practitioner jobs will be available over the next decade, but the position requires several college degrees and a significant amount of training.