Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Right now, there is a shortage of nurses in the United States, making this a great option for people searching for an exciting career with plenty of job openings. If you want to work as a nurse, there are many routes from which to choose, including that of a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners (NP) have specific education and certification, which gives them certain privileges above and beyond those of a registered nurse (RN).
NPs perform a wide range of services, according to the United States National Library of Medicine. Some of these overlap with the services performed by registered nurses or other kinds of nurses and can include compiling patients’ histories, doing exams, calling for testing, diagnosing and treating medical conditions, prescribing medications, referring patients to specialists, and performing medical procedures. Your exact duties as a nurse practitioner depend on the state where you practice. In some places, you may be able to have an independent practice, while in others; you need to be affiliated with a medical doctor.
Step #1: Obtain the Right Education
If you are interested in a career as a nurse practitioner, your first step is to become a registered nurse. This requires an associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Afterwards, the RN candidate must complete hands-on patient care training. NPs must have the bachelor’s degree, though they may opt to get an associate’s degree and work as a nurse for a few years first, as employers often offer to pay for advanced education. In most locations, nurse practitioners are also required to have a master’s degree. During the education process, most NPs choose a specialty, and after completion of their education, they must be licensed by the state where they work. In addition, nurse practitioners may choose to be nationally certified, which may also be a requirement in some states.
- Earn an associate degree in nursing or a BSN in Nursing.
- Receive a registered nurse Certification.
- Enroll and complete an MSN Nurse Practitioner program.
- Obtain NP certification and proper licensure, which varies by state.
Step #2: Choose an Area of Specialty
The next step is to choose an area of specialty. There are two types of NPs: Clinical and Administrative. Within these two types are a variety of specialties to choose from such as Pediatric, Family and, Adult care, Geriatrics, Women’s Health, Neonatal, Acute care, and Occupational Health. When pursuing an MSN degree, the program choice can be broad but also very specific; it is just a matter of choosing the best specialty for the type of nursing career desired.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist: A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced-practice nurse who provides care to a specific age group or health concern. These nurses work closely with physicians and healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive patient care.
- Nurse Anesthetist: A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a trained expert with advanced skills in the organization and management of anesthetic agents. A CRNA works with surgical teams and their support staff to control patient safety and minimize pain.
- Nurse Midwife: A certified nurse mid-wife (CNM) provides prenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal maternity care to expectant mothers. CNMs offer gynecologic examinations and often prescribe medication.
- General Nurse Practitioner: A nurse practitioner (NP) offers patient care in various sub-specialties such as cardiology, infectious diseases, rheumatology, primary care, pediatric oncology, among other areas. NPs serve as the primary care provider and can stand in for physicians.
- Clinical Nurse Leader: A clinical nurse leader (CNL) is prepared to step into a leadership role by overseeing patient care and casework management. A nurse leader supervises other nurses and motivates staff to perform at high expectations and standards. This role contributes to the development of the curriculum and clinical instruction seminars for nursing students.
- Nurse Administrator: A nurse administrator is typically high-ranking or the head nurse at a hospital or health clinic. This role is responsible for various administrative tasks and provides managerial support to an entire department. Physicians rely on nurse administrators to manage and monitor the staff to ensure that all proper procedures are followed.
- Nurse Educator: A certified nurse educator (CNE) has a unique role in the healthcare industry. The CNE trains new practitioners in a clinical/field setting, develops a curriculum and other instructional strategies.
- Nurse Manager: Nurse managers are accountable for both administrative and nursing roles by directing and monitoring staff as well as managing patient care. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities depend on nurse managers to observe, compare, and identify the best practice methods. This role often handles budgets, prepares reports, and drafts manuals regarding departmental operations and procedures.
Step #3: Decide Where to Work
NPs most commonly work at clinics, hospitals, and private offices, but there are other employer opportunities as well, including nursing homes, government health departments, veteran’s organizations, and health care agencies. No matter where you work, there are tons of incentives to becoming a NP as well, since many employers are so short-staffed that they offer not only tuition programs, but also high salaries, excellent benefits, and other perks. Right now is a great time to pursue a job in this industry, and the advanced degree you get as a nurse practitioner can really boost you to the top of the candidate list when applying for jobs.
- Estimated Salary: $64,100 – $120,500 (determined by place of employment and area of specialty), according to bls.gov.
- Job Setting: Private practices, outpatient care centers, nursing homes, hospitals (intensive care unit), neonatal unit, internal medicine clinics, ambulatory care, family practice offices.
- Job Prospects: Excellent, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One of the most rewarding and flexible careers today is that of a nurse practitioner. In order to pursue a nurse practitioner degree, one should have either an associates or a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Below are a list of schools offering high-quality programs that can help you on your way to becoming a nurse practitioner.
Featured Nurse Practitioner Programs
Accreditation: HLC, NCA
- Nurse Practitioner - Adult
- Nurse Practitioner - Family
- Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care
- Nurse Pracitioner - Primary Care Certificate
Accreditation: HLC, NCA
- RN to MSN in Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- RN to MSN in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- BSN to MSN in Psychiatric / Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Accreditation: HLC, NCA