If you're interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, you're in good company. The demand for nurse practitioners to work in doctor's offices, clinics and other medical settings has never been greater. The advanced training of the nurse practitioner enables physicians to leave many tasks in the skilled hands of the practitioner. According to the Mayo Clinic, nursing is one of the most rapidly growing in the medical field, with the demand for nurse practitioners expected to rise over the next several years. The average NP makes $80,000 per year as well, making it a very well-paying healthcare job.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, there are more than 135,000 NPs practicing in the United States. The specialization began in the 1960s when the medical field recognized the growing need for skilled healthcare professionals to offset the rising shortage of physicians. Nurse practitioners are RNs who receive additional clinical training and advanced education in acute care and preventive care. Most NPs receive a Master's degree in nursing and have extensive experience in specialties such as pediatrics or family medicine.
The Role of the Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners have the same basic training as registered nurses but receive advanced training in many aspects of acute care and clinical skills. Nurse practitioners may work with a physician in a clinic or office setting or in another healthcare facility. They can take health histories, explain medications, prescribe medications, interpret x-rays and other laboratory results, and provide healthcare education. Many NPs work with people who have serious, chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, providing counseling and education to empower patients to take charge of their own health.
Nurse practitioners must first obtain their RN designation. They earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from an accredited four year college or university. They must pass the national nursing examination, National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and any state exams required to obtain a nursing license.
After earning an RN, they must then enroll in a Master's program or a specialized program to obtain the designation Nurse Practitioner. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, currently there are 325 colleges and universities offering the NP degree program. Some states requires further training before awarding the NP designation. After completing their education, NPs must take one additional exam to receive certification. The school or university program in which you enroll to learn how to be an NP can guide you on how to apply for and take the exam. Additional courses can lead to specialized careers in fields such as oncology, geriatrics, pediatrics or many other disciplines.
NPs work in many settings and specialties. While many people encounter their first NP in a doctor's office, others work in psychiatric hospitals, oncology units, geriatrics and more. Many work independently, offering services in rural communities to educate and care for those in the community who need acute care and help managing chronic diseases.
Reasons to Become a Nurse Practitioner
After learning how to become a nurse practitioner, think about the many reasons that may motivate you to embark on this fulfilling career:
- Nurse Practitioners build upon the care, knowledge and expertise of their RN background to provide advanced care.
- There is very high demand for this job, with more openings than can be filled.
- Opportunities to educate patients and teach patients how to manage their own health.
- Great autonomy and decision making inpatient care.
For more information about becoming a nurse practitioner, please visit the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.