Nurse practitioners are nurses whose jobs look a lot like that of a doctor. They have an advanced degree, be that a Master’s or a Ph.D. The role of the nurse practitioner depends on the state in which the nurse is practicing. Certain states allow them to work completely independently, whereas others want them to be supervised by doctors. If you want to become a nurse practitioner, there are a number of things you may want to think about and a number of things you need to know.
The Education Pathways Towards Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
The job of a Nurse Practitioner (NP) is very varied. They record and analyze the history of a patient, conduct physical exams, order tests, prescribe certain types of therapy and more. Different medical settings and states have different requirements in terms of the education expected of an NP. However, a master’s degree is the bare minimum anywhere. NPs are also specialized in certain areas of care, such as family, pediatric, geriatric, adult, neonatal, women’s health, occupational health and acute.
The following educational pathways exist for those wanting to become an NP:
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). It will take around three years to complete this course and focuses on subjects, such as pathophysiology, health promotion, nursing theories and pharmacology.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). This is the Ph.D. program that allows you to start work as an NP. With a Ph.D., you could also become a nursing teacher. Some of the courses in this field include leadership, population health, capstone project and behavior complexity.
A lot of people now seek to study online. This allows them to study in their own time, meaning they can work alongside their studies. Various online NP courses exist. More often than not, however, these courses do include some practical work as well. Some schools will require you to attend the campus once every semester or so. Others will help you to arrange practical experience in your own geographical area. See 7 Best Online Nurse Practitioner Nursing Programs.
In order to work as a nurse practitioner, you must first become licensed. Firstly, you must obtain your RN (registered nurse) license, which is known as the NCLEX-RN. You then have to earn your BSN. In terms of getting licensed specifically as an NP, the requirements depend on the state in which you live. Every state has a Board of Nursing that will set out the requirements. Furthermore, you will also be able to find out here whether any additional qualifications are required for certain tasks, such as working independently or prescribing medication.
Prerequisites for Studying Towards Becoming an NP
In order to become an NP, a number of steps have to be followed first. These are:
- Earning a nursing undergraduate degree. This can be done through accelerated programs.
- Becoming a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX-RN.
- Completing a graduate degree in the field of nursing.
- Obtaining a license to be an Advanced Practice Nursing licensee.
- Specialization by obtaining certifications in specific fields.
A lot of information is made available on these five steps and it is recommended that you look into the issues if you are considering a career as a Nurse Practitioner.
Whether you study in a physical classroom or online, it is very important that you only choose accredited schools. This is particularly important if the school you are considering is only available online. Nurse practitioner programs must be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE. Only those schools that have been accredited by the CCNE have been proven to deliver the best type of education and allows you to use your certification as proof of competency.
The Cost of Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
The cost of becoming a Nurse Practitioner depends on a number of different factors. The education pathway you choose is one important factor, but also where you live and which school you choose, as well as the specialization you choose for. If you decide to study online you will usually have to pay less as well.
Scholarships for Nurse Practitioner
Financial aid is often available for those studying towards a nurse practitioner degree. Generally speaking, the school you choose will have details about where to go in order to apply. However, it is always worth visiting the AACN portal as well. You will be able to find information not just on the type of financial aid that is available, but also what repayment options are available and whether or not there are forgiveness programs.
Working as a Nurse Practitioner
There are many places where you could work as a nurse practitioner. You could work in community care programs, hospitals, physician’s offices, the military, the prison system and more. The salary of an NP is interesting, although it does vary on where you work, how long you have worked in that field. Information is provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which highlights the various factors that influence the job of a nurse practitioner.
The average mean annual wage for nurse practitioners at the last census was $95,070. However, as this is the median, it means half of all nurses will earn more than that, while the other half will earn less. The bottom 10% of NPs earn $66,960 per year, and the top 10% earn $126,250, which is a significant difference. However, it is also important to look into the benefits that different employers offer. For instance, they may offer childcare, bonuses, flexible working, educational programs and so on. Furthermore, those who earn the highest salaries tend to do a lot of shift work, meaning they are at work during evenings, weekends and holidays. Additionally, they may regularly be “on call”. All of these things mean that they will earn more money overall.
Job prospects are very good for nurse practitioners. Indeed, the nursing profession is growing faster than any other profession in the country.
This is because of a number of reasons, including:
- We have an aging population, meaning that health care is becoming more necessary.
- Our lifestyles are deteriorating, meaning there are more health problems. Obesity, which is now common even in young people, is a major concern for healthcare workers, as various medical conditions are associated with it.
- The Affordable Care Act has led to more people being able to access healthcare.
- Hospitals are starting to gain a greater understanding of the cost of keeping people in hospitals. Hence, they are discharged much more quickly to keep the costs of care down. However, the people who do still need medical care will have to be taken care of at home, which would fall within the remit of a Nurse Practitioner.
- Outpatient care is growing exponentially. Some of the treatment that is now available includes same day chemo, rehabilitation and surgery.
Nurses have great prospects for employment. There are certain roles within nursing that have different prospects, and the best ones tend to be found at the Nurse Practitioner level. This makes the career even more interesting for people who do have the desire to work in the field of nursing. Although it may take several years to get to that level, most report that it is worth it.