How do you become a nurse practitioner? Straddling the professional worlds of nurses and doctors, nurse practitioners dedicate at least six years to academically rigorous study at an accredited college or university. After earning their master’s degree, they must also pass a state licensing exam.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Established in the 1960s to help alleviate a national physician shortage, nurse practitioners have been caring for patients for nearly half a century, according to the Mayo Clinic. Trained to deliver the basic health care that the majority of patients require, nurse practitioners are among the most educated nursing professionals. They are capable of taking health histories, performing physical exams, understanding lab results and diagnosing many common health problems. They can also counsel patients about healthy lifestyle choices and refer them to other doctors or specialists. The ability of nurse practitioners to prescribe medication and practice independently varies from state to state. In some states, nurse practitioners are allowed to treat patients without direct oversight. Other states require nurse practitioners to work under a doctor who must approve their recommendations and actions.
Is a Nurse Practitioner Also a Nurse?
Because of the educational requirements for nurse practitioners, they are also nurses. In fact, nurse practitioners are also known as advanced practice regular nurses. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited college or university is the first step to becoming a nurse practitioner. After earning their bachelor’s degree, they are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses and apply for licensure as registered nurses. Many aspiring nurse practitioners work as nurses while continuing their education at the graduate level.
What Qualifications are Required to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
Although the exact requirements vary from state to state, nurse practitioners are generally required to hold a master’s degree in nursing. While some programs can be completed in a year, most take two to four years to complete, because of their combination of academic coursework and hands-on clinical work. During their studies, aspiring nurse practitioners choose an area of specialization. Primary care, pediatrics, cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, oncology, gastroenterology, and gerontology are popular options. Once students have obtained their master’s degrees, they must pass the licensing exam before they can begin practicing. They may also choose to seek certification from the board that oversees their specialty or from professional groups like the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
What is it Like to Work as a Nurse Practitioner?
According to U.S. News and World Report, which ranked nurse practitioner as fourth on its list of “Best Jobs of 2014,” the median annual salary for nurse practitioners is almost $90,000. The majority find positions in doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals. As is often the case in the medical field, working as a nurse practitioner can be a demanding, high-stress job. Nurse practitioners also need to be prepared for some confusion over their status. Many report occasional unpleasant encounters with medical doctors who make it clear that they do not consider nurse practitioners to be their professional peers. However, with regular opportunities to help a patient in need feel better, working as a nurse practitioner is also rewarding.
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Skyrocketing demands for health care are creating jobs throughout the industry. Like most medical professionals, nurse practitioners are in demand. A person willing to put in the hard work necessary to become a nurse practitioner will discover a multitude of opportunities to practice this challenging profession.