Nurse Practitioner

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

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.

What Are Some Nurse Practitioner Duties?

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:

  • Provide primary care to patients
  • Carry out physical exams
  • Take and record patients' medical histories
  • Diagnose infections, injuries, and illnesses
  • Design and implement patient care plans
  • Recognize changes in a patient's health and make necessary changes to the treatment plan
  • Write prescriptions
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests like EKGs or X-rays
  • Counsel and educate patients
  • Consult with different kinds of healthcare professionals
  • Educate patients and their loved ones regarding different medications and illnesses

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?

Nurse practitioners are employable in many medical settings, and in some states, may even open their own practice. Common workplaces include:

  • Hospitals
  • Community health care clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Physician offices
  • Education institutions
  • Urgent care facilities

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

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.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

All nurse practitioners will have fulfilled the following educational requirements:

  • Earn a Bachelor's of Nursing Science (BSN) degree from an accredited university or college
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam
  • Enroll in a Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) program in the NP specialty of choice from an accredited university or college
  • Upon earning an MSN, pass the nurse practitioner certification exam in your respective specialty

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.

Do Nurse Practitioners Need an RN Degree?

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.

Step 2: Required Nurse Practitioner Certifications/Credentials

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.

Nurse Practitioner Jobs, Salary & Employment

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.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Leadership skills, empathy, strong communication and interpersonal skills, attention to detail, physical endurance, exceptional problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, self-confidence, flexibility, compassion, emotional stability, and analytical skills
  • Job Outlook - The job outlook for nurse practitioners is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for nurse practitioners will rise by an astounding 31% between 2016 and 2026 - a rate that is substantially faster than most occupations.

What Is the Average Salary of a Nurse Practitioner?

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.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make per Year?

  • $75,000 – $118,000 annually

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Make per Hour?

  • $49.41 average hourly wage

Nurse Practitioner Resources