Nurse practitioners are highly skilled primary and specialty care providers who are responsible for treating patients in a variety of health care settings. Often considered an extension of a physician, nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice nurses, are able to provide full primary care services and prescribe medications in all states and the District of Columbia.
Nurse practitioners can choose to specialize in a wide range of health disciplines including mental health, orthopaedics, and neonatology. However, the most common areas for specialty are pediatrics, geriatrics, family practice, and women’s health. Daily responsibilities often include:
- Diagnosing and treating medical conditions
- Ordering tests and diagnostic procedures
- Prescribing medications
- Performing physical exams and some surgical procedures
A Bright Future for Nurse Practitioners
Nurses comprise the largest health care occupation, holding 2.6 million jobs. And, employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow faster than any other occupation–particularly for advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners. As a nurse practitioner, you can expect to earn a higher annual salary than the median for registered nurses, which is about $63,000, due to the advanced training and education that is required.
Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements
A nurse practitioner must have advanced education and training–beyond that needed to become a registered nurse. The majority hold a master’s degree.
There are two roads you can travel to become a nurse practitioner:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, obtain registered nursing licensure through the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), and then move forward to earn a master’s degree in nursing. This is the most common route taken.
- Another option is to train to be a registered nurse while fulfilling the requirements of the nurse practitioner certification boards.
Regardless, you must successfully pass the NCLEX-RN before being admitted to a master’s program.