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Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner Career and Training Profile
Nursing Schools
Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner Career Overview
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide a wide range of preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. NPs complete graduate-level education preparation that leads to a master's degree. NPs take health histories and provide complete physical examinations; diagnose and treat many common acute and chronic problems; interpret laboratory results and X-rays; prescribe and manage medications and other therapies; provide health teaching and supportive counseling with an emphasis on prevention of illness and health maintenance; and refer patients to other health professionals as needed.

According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), some of the most common areas of specialization for NPs are: Cardiology, Gerontology/Elder Care, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Primary Care, Gastroenterology, and Oncology.

NPs practice under the rules and regulations of the Nurse Practice Act of the state in which they work. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medication in every state and in the District of Columbia. In 21 states plus the District, NPs can practice independently without physician collaboration or supervision. Many NPs have their own practices and can be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, or other third parties.

Fast Facts about Nurse Practitioners (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners)
  • There are about 125,000 practicing NPs
  • 88% of NPs have a graduate degree
  • 92% of NPs maintain national certification
  • 96.5% of NPs prescribe medication
  • The 2008 mean F/T NP base salary was $84,250 across all specialties and settings with a average NP total income of $92,100 >> see full list of NP Facts

Nurse Practitioner Employment Opportunities
NPs practice in rural, urban, and suburban communities. They practice in many types of settings, such as clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, private physician or NP practices, nursing homes, schools, colleges, and public health departments.

Qualifications for a Nurse Practitioner Career
Nurse practitioners must have strong critical thinking, decision making, communication, and patient teaching skills. In addition, NPs must have the ability to accurately evaluate the health and illness experiences of individuals, families, and communities, and to analyze and apply research findings in their clinical work. Nurse practitioners also must be skilled in developing patient education strategies, applying ethical and legal principles to complex health care situations, and developing effective care plans that consider patients' life circumstances and cultural, ethnic, and developmental differences.

Nurse Practitioner Education
Before entering into a nurse practitioner program, candidates must be an active licensed RN with a BSN degree. Many perspective NPs works as RNs in a hospital or other clinical setting to gain experience and decide which specialty they want to focus on during their nurse practitioner education. They then pursue a master's degree in nursing (MSN). Many times, there is specialty training in the master's program (like family, child, women's health, and acute care).

Nurse Practitioner Licensing & Certification
After completing the education program, the candidate must be licensed by the state in which he or she plans to practice. The State Boards of Nursing regulate nurse practitioners and each state has its own licensing and certification criteria. In general, the criteria include completion of a nursing program and clinical experience. Because state board requirements differ, nurse practitioners may have to fulfill additional requirements, such as certification by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or a specialty nursing organization. The license period varies by state; some require biennial relicensing, others require triennial. After receiving state licensing, a nurse practitioner can apply for national certification from the ANA or other professional nursing boards such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Some NPs pursue certification in a specialty. Several organizations oversee these different certifications.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) provides Nurse Practitioner certification exams for the following specialties:
  • Acute Care NP
  • Adult NP
  • Adult Psychiatric & Mental Health NP
  • Diabetes Management - Advanced
  • Family NP
  • Family Psych & Mental Health NP
  • Gerontological NP
  • Pediatric NP
  • School NP

Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook
Employment of nursing professionals continues on a positive trajectory, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for advanced pratice nurses such as, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 31 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Growth will occur because of an increase in the demand for healthcare services. Several factors will contribute to this demand, including a large number of newly insured patients resulting from healthcare legislation, an increased emphasis on preventive care, and the large, aging baby-boom population. The aging population, given that older people typically have more medical problems than younger people. Nurses also will be needed to educate and care for patients with various chronic conditions, such as arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity.

Nurses continue to enjoy excellent salary potential. The US BLS stated the median annual wage for registered nurses was $67,490 in May 2015. Median annual wages for advanced practice nurse specialties in May 2015 were as follows:

Nurse anesthetists $157,140
Nurse practitioners $98,190
Nurse midwives $92,510
Nurse informatics* $85,800


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