Three Specialized Careers For Nurse Practitioners

Nurse EducatorNurse practitioners got their start in 1965, in large part due to a nationwide shortage of physicians. Today, there are over 135,000 nurse practitioners practicing in U.S., providing high-quality, cost-effective, and individualized care for patients and communities.

According to the American Nurses Association, approximately 60 to 80 percent of primary and preventive care can be performed by nurse practitioners. They can prescribe medications and practice without the collaboration or supervision of a physician. So nurse practitioners play a crucial role in an ever-stretched health care system that often lacks the resources to reach rural or other under served areas. It also means that a nurse practitioner career can provide many opportunities for someone interested in the health care field.

Nurse Practitioner Career Specialties.
Ready to learn more about how to shape your nurse practitioner career? Here are three specialty areas to get you started:

1. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
An FNP is a registered nurse who has usually completed a master's degree, along with specialized clinical training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions. They focus on the general health of both children and adults, providing health assessments, direct care, and guidance on family self-care.

FNPs work in a wide variety of health care settings, such as clinics, long-term care facilities, hospitals, hospice centers, and nursing homes. They typically work alongside family primary care physicians and other health care professionals, but can also run their own practices. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners' (AANP) 2008 compensation survey, FNPs make an average base salary of $82,630.

2. Adult Health Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
ANPs are the most common type of nurse practitioners. This nurse practitioner career focuses on care for adults with common acute and chronic health conditions, including health promotion and disease prevention.

Many ANPs specialize even further, creating practices around diabetes care or women's health care. Most continue to cover the general area of primary care practice for all adults of any age. ANPs are increasingly popular in nurse managed care centers in under-served areas, since they can provide high-level, cost-effective care.

Registered nurses who want to become an ANP generally have to complete a master's program to become eligible to be certified in this specialty. Once certified and working, ANPs questioned in the AANP's compensation survey made an average base salary of $86,160.

3. Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
WHNPs focus their nurse practitioner career on women's health and disease prevention, treating female patients both young and old. It's a specialty that calls for experience in case management and the ability to incorporate the physical, social, and emotional aspects of life into health assessment, education and intervention.

On any given day, a WHNP might provide breast cancer screening, STD treatment, prenatal care and advice on handling menopause. With additional education and clinical experience, WHNPs can even sub-specialize in areas such as infertility, cardiovascular health, geriatrics, or endocrinology.

Most WHNPs have advanced degrees and years of clinical experience in women's health care, but it's also possible to specialize through certificate programs. According to the AANP compensation survey, WHNPs earned an average base salary of $79,690 in 2008.

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