Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have a master's degree in nursing (MSN) as well as board certification in a specialty like acute care, neonatal health, psychiatry, pediatrics, and others. While traditional RNs usually provide general care and do a bit of everything, nurse practitioners typically have extensive knowledge and experience in one specialty area of nursing. Much like doctors, nurse practitioners examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and formulate treatment plans. In 20 states around the country, nurse practitioners have what's called ‘full practice authority'. This means that they're able to work autonomously without needing the supervision of a doctor. In the remaining states, while NPs have more authority than RNs, they're required to have a medical doctor sign off on certain decisions.
Even though there are tasks that are common to all nurse practitioners, most of the time, they vary from specialty to specialty. The following is a list of duties and responsibilities that are common to most nurse practitioners:
Nurse practitioners are employable in many medical settings, and in some states, may even open their own practice. Common workplaces include:
Because advanced degrees are required, becoming a nurse practitioner means undergoing an extensive amount of education. Upon graduating with an MSN degree and passing the certification exam, prospective NPs will then need to seek certification in their respective specialty. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are the organizations which administer the exam to test takers looking to become nurse practitioners. Each state chooses individually which certification organizations they will accept.
All nurse practitioners will have fulfilled the following educational requirements:
Nurse practitioners are able to specialize in an area of choice. These include Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, Family Nurse Practitioners, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, Emergency Nurse Practitioners, and Women's Health Nurse Practitioners, to name a few.
Not only is a nurse practitioner required to have a registered nurses license, but they should also have a specialized MSN or post-graduate degree as well as some kind of certification in a nurse practitioner specialty.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are the two largest organizational bodies that award the various certifications that nurse practitioners can choose to pursue. The AANP Certification programs offer certification exams for nurse practitioners who wish to work as certified family, adult, or gerontology nurse practitioners. The ANCC offers certifications in a wide variety of specialty areas as well.
Eligibility requirements will vary by specialty certification. Candidates should refer to the specific requirements for their respective certification. Typically, in addition to having a graduate degree in nursing, applicants must hold an active unrestricted RN license, and should have at least 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in their specialty.
The future for nurse practitioners looks incredibly bright. As time goes by, nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly crucial to the country's healthcare system since more and more hospitals, urgent care facilities, and healthcare clinics are employing their expertise. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, nurse practitioners can provide 80-90 percent of the care that primary care physicians offer. For this reason, it's likely that more states will allow nurse practitioners to practice autonomously in the future.
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $92,734. Factors like the specialty field, geographical location of employment, experience level, educational credentials, and certifications will all play into the amount of money a nurse practitioner will make. Employed nurse practitioners of every specialty can also expect to receive employee benefits packages which generally include the likes of medical, vision, dental, and prescription insurance coverage. Of the nurse practitioners that were surveyed by The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), most of them also received paid sick leave, paid vacation, professional liability insurance, retirement plans, and life insurance. Of course, benefits will vary from employer to employer.