A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse but with advanced classroom training and clinical education. A nurse practitioner is referred to as an advanced practice registered nurse or APRN. In simple words, a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse but with more education, training, and responsibilities than a general nurse.
Watch a video to learn how to become a nurse practitioner.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
You must earn your master’s degree or doctorate degree in nursing before becoming a nurse practitioner. You can go right through school and get your bachelor’s degree in nursing and continue on with your master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. However, many decide to become a registered nurse first and then continue on to become an NP after gaining some experience. Either route you take you must get certified to practice.
In order to get certified to practice, you must earn your degree from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Once a student graduates from one of these programs they are eligible to sit for the advanced practice nursing license and are able to obtain certification in a specific patient population focus. Both of these have written exams that must be passed. Certifications are available from a number of professional organizations, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Check your state’s medical board for more information.
Job Description of a Nurse Practitioner
The job profile of a nurse practitioner is quite expansive, particularly in comparison with a registered nurse. A nurse practitioner is expected to be trained to attend to patients with complicated medical problems. A nurse practitioner could also be an integral member of surgery teams that engage in complicated procedures. A nurse practitioner would be trained and experienced in diagnosing medical conditions, prescribing medications, conducting tests, interpret test results, and carrying out medical procedures including but not limited to emergency care, anesthesia, and administering medicines.
A nurse practitioner is expected to be decisive and should have the ability to make on the spot decisions. One is also expected to either advice or concur with doctors and surgeons in certain circumstances. A nurse practitioner is often made in charge of a patient and he or she would directly report to the doctor or surgeon under whose care the patient is.
Nurse practitioners work full-time and many are employed in a private clinic, health care center, or hospital. Those who work in physicians’ offices or schools work during normal business hours. However, those who work in other medical settings work in shifts to provide round-the-clock patient care. This includes nights, weekends, holidays, and on-call. This job can be physically and emotionally demanding. Nurse practitioners are on the feet most of the day and tend to many patients at the same time. They are prone to back injuries and are exposed to infectious diseases on a regular basis, but with the proper techniques and safety precautions a lot of this is preventable.
Nurse Practitioner Career Video Transcript
At hospitals and clinics, the professional who examines, diagnoses, and treats patients’ illnesses may not be an MD, but instead, a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners review patient histories and symptoms to diagnose health conditions. If a patient is sick or has an injury, the nurse practitioner decides how to treat it, prescribes appropriate medication, and evaluates the patient’s response to medicines and treatments.
Nurse practitioners order and interpret lab tests and x-rays, record their patients’ progress and symptoms, and refer to specialists as needed. These professionals have a particular focus on providing education on health conditions and health-management techniques to empower their patients. They talk with patients about how effective, safe, and expensive their treatment options are.
Nurse practitioners may have a general family practice or work in emergency medicine, oncology, or women’s health. They may focus on a population like children, the elderly, or those with mental illness. Some nurse practitioners work in clinics independently. However, all nurse practitioners consult with physicians and other health professionals when needed. Nurse practitioners are required to have a master’s degree, a registered nurse license, and in most states, professional certification. Between spending generous time with patients and putting a focus on health promotion, this is an occupation that receives very high satisfaction marks from those it serves.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.
National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1171.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.