Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who provide a wide range of health promotion and maintenance services owing to their advanced knowledge base and training, decision making skills, clinical competencies and experience. They diagnose and treat common severe illnesses and health conditions in patients of all age groups.
Their specialized knowledge and skill set make them eligible for expanded practice involving higher levels and a variety of healthcare services when compared to what a registered nurse (RN) is licensed to do.
The duties of a Nurse Practitioner typically revolve around all aspects of health care - diagnosis, treatment and preventive care, and consultation. The rules governing the scope of their duties usually vary from state to state and also by specialty that includes primary care, pediatrics, psychiatric care, geriatrics, and oncology. Some of their common tasks and responsibilities however include the following –
The qualification and prerequisites for becoming a Nurse Practitioner are as follows:
1. Bachelor’s Degree – Aspiring Nurse Practitioners must first earn a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing or some related field as a necessary prerequisite. The undergraduate nursing program includes classroom study in areas such as pharmacology, pediatric nursing, human anatomy, physiology, and community health. The program also provides opportunity to have practical learning in the form of clinical experience under expert supervision. The program curricula is designed to include skills related to communication, supervision and management, research and community health.
2. Licensure for Registered Nurse (RN) – An RN license is a must for gaining eligibility to pursue Master’s Degree or advanced nursing program for every Nurse Practitioner in the United States and U.S territories. The license is secured after successfully passing the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).
3. Clinical Experience – Although not mandatory, gaining some clinical experience before enrolling for a Master’s program in nursing is highly preferable. Working as an RN in a clinical setting provides them insight into effectively managing patient problems and working with medical professionals as a team.
4. Master’s Degree – The next step is to complete an accredited Master’s Degree program in nursing that typically takes 2-3 years. Many graduate schools offer Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with several specialization options such as family care, adult primary care, acute care, mental health, and Gerontology. Clinical practice in a real healthcare setting is an integral part of the MSN program curriculum.
Most nursing graduate schools require RNs to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to give them entry for MSN program. However, there are some schools that also allow RNs with an associate degree or diploma, or non-nursing Bachelor’s degree in a field related to health or science.
5. State License – Most states require all prospective candidates (licensed RNs with a Master’s Degree in Nursing) to obtain advanced practice nursing licensure. These requirements usually vary from state to state. These may take the form of additional state-administered professional examinations and certifications.
6. National Certification – Nursing graduates with a valid RN license and clinical experience can choose to seek certification in their specialty area from national level bodies that include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. These certifications need to be renewed every five years.
The most common workplaces of Nurse Practitioners include clinics, hospitals, community health centers, managed care organizations, employee health centers, school and college campuses, and government health departments and military centers. Healthcare technology companies also hire Nurse Practitioners for research work. Some also teach in schools and universities.
Many Nurse Practitioners have their own private offices or work at nurse-managed health centers as more and more states are passing legislation to allow Nurse Practitioners to practice independently without the supervision of a physician.
The work schedule could be 40-hours work week or may include weekends, holidays or after hours call based on the nature of work and practice setting.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has found the mean annual salary for Nurse Practitioners in the U.S in 2013 to be $95,070. The mean annual salary range has been around $66,960 to $126,250. According to PayScale Salary Survey results in 2015, the annual median earnings for Nurse Practitioners in the U.S is $86 K with the lowest 10% earning around $68k and the top10% around $114k. Some of the best paying geographical locations include metropolitan areas of Columbus, Indiana, Texarkana, Texas, San Jose and California. The top paying industries for Nurse Practitioners are Personal Care Services, Specialty hospitals and Grant making and giving services.
The employment of Nurse Practitioners has been estimated to grow by 34% from 2012 to 2022 as per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, this profession offers several high paying career path options such as Pediatrics, Midwifery, Neonatal Care, Oncology, Geriatrics, Psychiatry, Chronic Pain, Nurse Advocate and Researcher, Nephrology, and Nurse Anesthesia.
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