A Nurse Practitioner NP, also known as Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), receives a graduate level education to acquire additional skills, knowledge, and experience that they can apply to their nursing practice. In addition, nurses who choose to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses also receive substantial compensation for their new level of education.
Becoming a nurse requires a high level of skill and knowledge. Nursing students attend nursing school for a specified amount of time in order to practice their particular area of nursing. Some nurses choose to advance their education even further so they choose to attend graduate school to advance their current education and skills.
This article will provide a comprehensive overview of Nurse Practitioner career information. For more articles in this topic, visit our Nurse Practitioner information database.
The History of Advanced Practice Nursing (NP)
During the early 1960s, a talented pediatrician named Dr. Henry K. Silver saw the need for young children to receive better basic medical care from nursing professionals. To resolve the issue, Dr. Silver collaborated with his University of Colorado colleague, Loretta Ford to create the first educational program for nurse practitioners in the United States. The University’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing was the location of this program. The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program at the University of Colorado receives recognition for the establishment of the nurse practitioner profession.
The nursing profession continues to thrive today. The nurse practitioner (NP) movement has transformed the nursing profession as it has continued to survive over the years. It has also influenced the delivery of healthcare services and the public’s view of the nursing profession. Nearly 240,000 Advanced Practice Registered Nurses existed in the United States in 2008, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Advanced Practiced Registered Nurses (APRN) now have six main areas of focus, which include family, mental health, adult-gerontology, neonatal, women’s health, and pediatrics. The standards to become a nurse practitioner in accordance with the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) require that nursing professionals hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing to work in entry-level positions as Nurse Practitioners.
Advanced Practice Nurses make a tremendous difference in the healthcare field. The millions of people who live in the United States may need the services of these specialized nurses at some point in their lives so it is so important that advanced practices nursing exists. The growing shortage of doctors has also contributed to the increase into the need for Advanced Practice Nurses. These individuals provide specialized and primary care that many patients need.
What is a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an APRN with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. A Nurse Practitioner has an expert knowledge in nursing and has an exceptional level of clinical competences and decision-making in the field of nursing. An APRN can assume the role of Certified Nurse Specialist (CNS), Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). These Nurse Practitioners have a significant amount of training and education that puts them in a greater position in the nursing practice.
NPs treat the mental and physical conditions of their patients. Specific responsibilities of Nurse Practitioners include:
- Educating and counseling patients on treatment options and self-care skills
- Diagnosing, evaluating, managing, and treating chronic and acute disease and illness
- Performing procedures and surgeries
- Conducting physical examinations
- Providing patient care in a variety of settings
- Acquiring medical records of patients
- Providing specialty and primary care for patients
- Prescribing therapies and rehabilitation treatments
- Providing well-child care
- Providing family planning services
- Prescribing medications for chronic and acute illnesses
Nurse Practitioners can receive national board certification in the following areas Occupational Health, Pediatrics, Pediatric Oncology, Gerontology, Pediatric Acute/Chronic Care, Adult Health, Pediatric Critical Care, Neonatology, Emergency, Oncology, and Psychiatry & Mental Health.
The scope of Nurse Practitioner practices vary tremendously, but most organizations outline the following characteristics: high level of independence and autonomy in nursing; recognized first contact for patients; case manager; recognized advanced level of clinical competency; planning, evaluating and implementing programs; implement education, practice, management and research; and possess advanced skills in health assessment.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP)
To become a Nurse Practitioner (NP), individuals must first earn an undergraduate degree in nursing. It is necessary to earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing to begin the process of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Earning a degree from an accredited college or university is also important to the future opportunities that nurses receive.
It takes approximately 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree and 2 years to earn an associate’s degree. Many programs transfer credits from associate’s degree programs to go toward earning a bachelor’s degree. Nurses must hold a bachelor’s degree to qualify for graduate level nursing programs. Common courses in undergraduate programs include health assessment, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and pediatric nursing.
Next, nurses must earn the registered nurse credentials by passing the National Council Licensure examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). It is necessary to become a Registered Nurse before pursing advanced licensing and graduate degrees. Each state has specific requirements to become a Registered Nurse so it is necessary to check the requirements before pursing further education and licensing.
Nurses must complete a graduate level nursing program to become a Nurse Practitioner. These programs usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Courses may include pathophysiology, healthcare management, and advanced pharmacology. Nurses may choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine in their graduate program. Clinical residency is also required as part of the graduate program.
Each state has specific requirements for licensing, but the most common requirements include a minimum education of a master’s in advanced nursing, passing a state or national examination, and a valid RN license. Some states require additional licensing to prescribe mediation. Nurses must also participate in continuing education coursework to maintain their licenses once they earn them.
To certify as a Nurse Practitioner, nurses must sit for a certification examination in their particular area of specialization. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are two of the most widely known certifying bodies. A few of the specialty areas that nurses can choose to earn their certification include mental health, diabetes management, acute care, and pediatrics.
How to Pass the ANCC & AANP Nurse Practitioner Certification Exams
In order to practice as a Nurse Practitioner (NP), the nurse nurse pass the ANCC or AANP exam. The best way to prepare for these licensure certification exams is to use a study guide. Most study guides comes with thousands of practice questions which help prepare the student for what type of questions will be asked on the ANCC or AANP exam. In addition, study guides help condense the material you learned in nurse practitioner school into one book. This makes it easier to study and helps you focus on what material will likely be on the exam.
A great study guide for the ANCC & ANNP exam is called “Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination & Practice Preparation“. Here is what it looks like:
List of Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
The types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses include the following:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist – These individuals provide a variety of healthcare services to patients. Nurses must graduate from an accredited master’s program and successfully complete the national certification examination to qualify for licensure. These nurses provide specialized care in such areas as family health and women’s health in clinical and hospital settings.
- Nurse Midwife – These nursing professionals help with gynecologic and obstetric care. Their responsibilities include providing prenatal care, helping mothers care for their newborns, and assisting with gynecological exams.
- Nurse Anesthetists – These individuals have the responsibility to create and administer an anesthesia plan for surgery. These nurses are well-trained primary caregivers who receive training in drug therapies, pharmacology, and surgical procedures
- Nurse Practitioners – These specialized nurses can work independent of doctors. They are also allowed to conduct examinations, see patients, prescribe medications, create care plans, and diagnose medical conditions. These nurse practitioners may specialize in family or adult health.
Employment Setting for a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can work in a variety of healthcare settings due to their specialized areas of certification. They can work in the following settings: walk-in clinics, community clinics, college/school clinics, health centers, public health departments, urgent care centers, retail-based clinics, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), veteran’s administration facilities, home health care agencies, physician offices, hospitals and hospital clinics, private medical practices, hospice care, private and public colleges and universities, nurse practitioner offices, nursing schools, nursing homes, and nurse-led clinics. Nurse practitioners are highly sought after in the healthcare setting so they should have no trouble finding nursing jobs in any setting.
Nurse Practitioner Salary
The salaries that Nurse Practitioners (NPs) earn are determined by the nature of the work that they perform. They are one of the highest paid nursing professionals in the industry. Salary also varies greatly by the location and work environment so nurses may want to consider these factors when looking for available positions. The biggest appeal to the nursing profession is the substantial salary that nurses can earn. Nurses also gain a sense of purpose in their line of work.
The median annual salary for Nurse Practitioners was $87,618 in 2010. Experienced Nurse Practitioners can earn salaries of over $120,000 annually in some cases. Although the starting salary for Nurse Practitioners is only $60,000 annually, the salaries can increase significantly with experience. See updated statistics below:
The setting that Nurse Practitioners work also affects their salaries. For example, NPs working in private practice generally earn wages of $59,700 to $95,250 annually. Other settings that NPs work in include hospitals and clinics. Those working in hospitals can expect to make annual wages of $65,200 to $101,800, while those working in family medicine can earn wages between $68,450 and $87,100.
Nurse practitioners salaries are also influence by geographical locations as well. To find how much you will earn as a nurse practitioner in your state see this article “Nurse Practitioner Salaries by State“.
One way to drive the annual salaries even higher is to consider becoming a travel nurse. Travel nurses make higher wages because they travel to work in settings where a shortage of nurses exists. These work settings usually last from a few months to one year and come with many benefits. In addition to lucrative salaries, traveling Nurse Practitioners receive relocation stipends, signing bonuses, housing stipends, and benefits that make travel nursing an interesting idea. Interested nurses should find a local agency that arranges for travel nurses to relocate temporarily to provide patient care.
Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook
The outlook for Nurse Practitioners is very promising. The shortage of nursing professionals will create more jobs over the next decade. There are currently over 102,829 Nurse Practitioners working in the United States. The demand for their services is high because of the specialized services that they provide to their patients. They can provide quality healthcare to all of their patients. Nurse practitioners can also take the place of other medical professionals—such as doctors and Anesthesiologist—and provide the same level of skilled care that these individuals provide their patients. The need for cost-effective healthcare will continue to drive the need for Nurse Practitioners.
Other factors that influence the increase in the need for qualified Nurse Practitioners include advancements in medical technology, an increase in the elderly population, an increase in preventive care measures, and greater health problem in patients. The highest amount of growth is expected to exist is physicians’ offices – 48%; nursing care facilities – 25%; hospitals – 17%; health care services – 33%; and employment services -24%. Since a greater number of healthcare services can be administered on an outpatient basis, the growth for Nurse Practitioner positions is expected to increase slowly.
Nurse Practitioners offer a cost-efficient option for patients to receive primary care. Underserved areas—such as inner cities and rural areas—provide these medical professionals with the greatest number of opportunities.
NPs are expected to participate in continuing education to maintain their certification and job status. Earning higher degrees and participating in continuing education opportunities is a great way to increase the opportunities in the nursing profession. Advancements in medicine make it vital that NPs participate in these opportunities so that they can continue to provide a high level of care to their patients.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner requires a high level of education and skill. Those interested in this area of nursing must have a true passion for the nursing profession. With so many specializations and certification areas, it is no wonder why this area of nursing is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative positions in nursing. Many opportunities are available for nurses to become nurse practitioners and provide a high level of patient care to each of their patients.