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Nurse Practitioner


How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioner Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practicioner Salary
Influential Professionals in the Nurse Practitioner Field
Leading Nurse Practitioner Organizations
Top Cities for Nurse Practitioner Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Nurse Practitioner

A licensed nurse practitioner (NP) must first complete the registered nurse (RN) education and training prerequisites. Candidates in the RN program meet their requirements through an associate's degree in nursing (ASN), a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or a diploma program. Direct patient care for acutely or chronically ill patients also needs to be completed. ASNs, offered by community and junior colleges, usually take two years. BSN programs, offered by colleges and universities, take four years. Candidates then need to successfully pass a national examination to receive their license, the NCLEX-RN.

Most states require that RNs looking to become an NP obtain their master's degree. RNs partake in a mandatory, state-approved advanced nursing education program for specialty training and certification. Advanced nursing programs include training in: family practice; adult health; acute care; or one of the four advanced nursing specialties, including clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse-midwives, and nurse practitioners. Degrees are granted by universities that grant master's of science in nursing (MSN) degrees, now the minimum degree required, or universities that grant doctorates in nursing. Some ASN programs do a "bridge program" where most of the bachelor's degree is completed while completing the master's requirements.

NPs can apply for national certification from one of several professional nursing organizations, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) before or after receiving state licensing. The ANCC offers certification but not the ANA directly. Some NPs pursue certification in a specialty.

What does a Nurse Practitioner do?

An NP is trained in diagnosis and management of common and complex medical conditions. The core philosophy is individualized care and focus on patients' conditions as well as the effects of illness on patients and their families. NPs provide a broad range of health care services and act as a "point of entry" health care provider for patients within a designated scope of practice. The profession is state regulated, making NP care varied from state to state.

Scope of practice may include: acute and chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes and high blood pressure); comprehensive history taking and physical exams; diagnostic studies interpretation (e.g., routine lab tests, bone x-rays, and EKGs); the prescribing of any needed physical therapy and rehabilitation; the ordering of tests and therapies for patients; prenatal care and family planning services; the provision of well-child care and screening/immunizations; primary and specialty care services; health-care maintenance for adults (e.g., annual physicals); acute and critical patient care; minor surgeries and procedures, generally with supervision and further training (e.g., dermatological biopsies, suturing, and casting); and counseling and education to patients on health behaviors, self-care, and treatment options.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Nurse Practitioner?

Nursing is a service-oriented field. All nurses need to be active in looking to help people. Needs assessment techniques, quality service standards, alternative delivery systems, and customer satisfaction evaluation are all part of customer and personal service skills. In conversing with patients, NPs needs good speaking skills as well oral and reading comprehension skills to effectively convey and understand information and ideas presented orally or written.

Social perceptiveness and awareness of others' reactions as well as the ability to understand those reactions are extremely important skills for successful patient interaction. Problem sensitivity enables NPs to accurately observe reactions and recognize if something is or likely will be wrong. Solid judgment and decision-making are imperative because potential actions need to be weighed for pros and cons for the patient. Critical thinking then comes into play. Logic and analysis to identify strengths or weaknesses of different approaches with patients are used to make good decisions that are socially perceived as the best solution while being problem sensitive of what may go wrong.

Graduates have advanced training in medicine, dentistry, biology, chemistry, information, and the techniques needed in diagnosing and treating injuries, diseases, and deformities. Knowledge of symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health care measures are also necessary.

How much does a Nurse Practitioner make?

Pay varies state to state but, the median salary is $77,000. Healthcare and Medical Office industries paid the highest of between $77,000 and $78,000. Hospital and Health Care Service industries paid lowest of between $75,000 and $76,650.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

The Sharp Cutting Edge Award, initiated in 1996, is the most prestigious honor given by the ACNP and honors ACNP's first Executive Vice President, Nancy Sharp. It is presented to NPs, nurses, or laypersons who demonstrate the extraordinary belief in NPs, contributing efforts to improve image and visibility of the profession.

Sandra F. Ryan, RN, MSN, CPNP, and Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer of Take Care Health Systems, received the aware in 2007 for improving awareness of NPs through demonstrating effective efforts well above ordinary role responsibilities on behalf of the nurse practitioner community.

Patsy Leavitt, awarded in 2006, established Leavitt's Mill Health Center in Buxton, Maine in 2002 with primary care services and volunteer health care providers. Leavitt led grassroots efforts to obtain third-party reimbursement for NPs in Maine and secured federal approval of Medicare reimbursement for NP emergency care. Leavitt served as ACNP National Secretary and started the board's first strategic planning process.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

One leading organization in the nursing field is the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Formed in 1985, it set the foundation for NPs to network and advocate for shared NP issues. It was the first national organization created for all NP specialties. Currently, AANP represents over 125,000 U.S. nurse practitioners.

The American Academy of Nursing (AAN) is another well-known organization. Their mission is to ". . . serve the public and nursing profession by advancing health policy and practice through the generation, synthesis, and dissemination of nursing knowledge."

What are the top cities for Nurse Practitioner jobs?

The top states to work as an NP are California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. They all paid about $80,000 to $85,000 for median salaries. Aside from Philadelphia, which was reported to pay $80,000, other cities were blocked on PayScale from releasing median NP salaries.

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