Nurse practitioners are among the most advanced of registered nurses. They provide basic healthcare in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They work with patients who have common illnesses and injuries, diagnosing and treating these problems. They have the ability to prescribe medications, but their authority in this respect varies from State to State. They have graduate level training in diagnostic and health assessment skills. Because of this, they often complete much of the work that physicians would otherwise be responsible for. They usually work under the direction of supervising physicians interviewing patients, performing physical examinations, ordering laboratory tests, and making tentative diagnoses. After making their preliminary diagnoses, they often refer patients to physicians or other health specialists.
Nurse practitioners need to have strong critical thinking and decision-making skills. They should have well-developed communication skills, and the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly. They need to be able to honor the wishes of their patients. They must be willing to work with a team, as well as supervise others. Due to the intense nature of the work, nurse practitioners should be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition.
Nurse practitioners earn annual salaries between about $55,000 and $70,000.
Training and Education
The first step on the road to becoming a nurse practitioner is to become a registered nurse (RN). In order to obtain a nursing license, which is required by all 50 States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination. They must first obtain a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN). BSN programs are offered through colleges and universities and take 4 years to complete. BSNs provide graduates with the most opportunity for advancement within the nursing profession. Most nurse practitioners go beyond the educational requirement of a bachelor's degree and earn their master's of science degree in nursing (MSN) in a wide variety of specialties. A few nurse practitioners earn an additional certificate through a two-year program after they have completed their master's degree. These certificate programs allow students to focus on an additional specialty within the world of nursing. Click here for information on Nurse Practitioner Schools and to contact their admissions departments.
In 2002, registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, held approximately 2.3 million jobs, making the occupation the largest in the healthcare field.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of nurse practitioners is expected to increase faster than the average. More new RN jobs are expected to be created than any other occupation, mostly because of the need to replace aging registered nurses as they leave the profession. Factors such as the growing elderly population, general growth of healthcare, rising median age of registered nurses, increased emphasis on preventative treatment, and technological advances will keep registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, in high demand.