Nurse practitioner


The role of the nurse practitioner (NP) is very new and only goes back to 1965 when the first nurse practitioner education program was developed by Dr. Henry Silver and Dr. Loretta Ford at the University of Colorado.  In 1985, the establishment of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners helped to better develop the scope of practice, education requirements and the different certification requirements that are necessary to earn and maintain nurse practitioner status.

Nurse practitioners work in a capacity similar to a medical doctor because they are able to do things like diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications and manage a patient’s total health care.




Nurse Practitioner Salary

The average nurse practitioner salary is $94,525 per year.  The lowest 10 percent earns around $81,611 per year and the highest 10 percent earns around $109,821 per year.

The amount of money you make varies greatly because nurse practitioners can take on so many different roles.  For example, an acute care nurse practitioner is going to earn more than a family practice nurse practitioner, in most cases.  There are various specialties and certifications that can help to increase your earning power.  Other considerations, such as your geographic location, level of experience, education level and your specific employer will also work to determine your salary.



Nurse Practitioner Job Description

In looking at what is a nurse practitioner, you will find that this type of nurse has a large variety of roles and responsibilities.  This advanced practice nurse is able to provide total care to the patients that he or she cares for.  The type of nurse practitioner you become will determine the duties that you perform.  The following are general tasks that a nurse practitioner will complete on the job:

  • Diagnosing illnesses and injuries
  • Referring patients for more advanced care
  • Ordering laboratory and imaging testing
  • Conducting assessments and examinations
  • Prescribing medications and therapies

There are many different settings in which a nurse practitioner can work.  These include:

  • Cardiology
  • Family medicine
  • Neonatology
  • Oncology
  • Primary care
  • Women’s health
  • Emergency medicine
  • Geriatrics
  • Nephrology
  • Pediatrics
  • School health

Nurse practitioners may practice at major hospitals, clinics or outpatient facilities.  In some states, this type of nurse may also have his or her own practice.



Nurse Practitioner Education

To become a nurse practitioner you will pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a nurse practitioner focus.  Most schools will allow you to focus on the exact type of nurse practitioner that you want to be.  The following specialty areas can be pursued by a nurse practitioner:

  • Acute care
  • Family nursing
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s healthcare
  • Adult nursing
  • Geriatrics
  • Psychiatry

To begin your master’s degree, you must be a registered nurse and many programs will require that you have at least some experience working as a nurse.  When you pursue the degree full-time, it will take about three years to complete your master’s degree.  Your degree will consist of classroom instruction, a research project and clinical hours.  All of these requirements will vary by school, but the clinical component is generally at least 500 hours and the research project will focus on the specific specialty that you wish to practice in.  The following is a sample list of classes you may take throughout your degree:

  • Nursing theory
  • Leadership for advanced practice nursing
  • Nursing research
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Assessment of individuals, communities and families
  • Primary healthcare of children
  • Primary healthcare of adults
  • Primary healthcare of women
  • Clinical reasoning
  • Diagnostic processes in advanced practice nursing



Nurse Practitioner Certification and Licensing

Licensure will depend on your state, as well as the specialty that you plan to go into.  You have many different options and all of the requirements will differ.  However, there are some general requirements that most nurse practitioner certificates will require and these include:

  • Having an active registered nursing license
  • Successfully completing an accredited Master’s of Science in Nursing degree
  • At least 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours
  • Having taken the following classes: advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment
  • Pay all applicable fees

Once you have your certificate, it will last for five years in most cases.  Before your certificate expires, you must renew it to continue practicing.  Renewal generally requires the following:

  • Having worked a set amount of hours as a nurse practitioner in your specialty
  • Paying the applicable fees
  • Presenting proof that you completed all required continuing education credits
  • Having an active registered nursing license

It is important to get the renewal process started two to three months in advance to ensure plenty of time to get the documentation together and have it reviewed by the proper board and/or organization.  If your certificate runs out, you may not be able to practice until it is active again.



Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Between the years 2010 and 2020, there is a projected 26 percent increase in the need for qualified nurse practitioners.  This is much faster than the average career in the United States.

This significant need can be related to a large variety of factors.  The need for primary care is increasing and there are just not enough doctors in the United States to provide this.  Nurse practitioners are also expected to be helpful in areas that are underserved and rural in nature.  Other factors include an increased demand in academia and the fact that new outpatient centers are popping up all over the country and they need more primary care providers.



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