The Nurse Practitioner Work Day: An Overview

Most nurse practitioners work in hospitals or medical centers, like registered nurses. There, NPs are responsible for a number of general nursing duties, which are duties completed by nurses of all educational levels. These duties include gathering patient histories, working with doctors to order diagnostic tests, and performing routine examinations. Nurses may also be in charge of tasks such as taking blood, checking vital signs, delivering meals, and maintaining records, though many times, these duties are left to lower-level nurses, rather than to nurse practitioners. At first glance it may not seem like the job of a nurse practitioner is much different from the job of an RN, there are some very clear ways in which your day to day tasks are different.

General Nursing Duties

A nurse practitioner provides diagnosis, treatment, consultation, and follow-up under the supervision of one or more physicians in the practice, depending on each state’s practice regulations. NPs provide specialty and age-appropriate medical care at the level of training completed. NPs are responsible for a number of general nursing duties including, gathering patient histories, working with doctors to order diagnostic tests, and performing routine examinations. NPs may also be in charge of tasks such as taking blood, checking vital signs, delivering meals, and maintaining records. Below are specific descriptions of various NP job duties:

  • Diagnosing: NPs can order diagnostic testing and view results to make an official diagnosis. In all states, nurse practitioners can write prescriptions, and in some states, they do not have to be under supervision of a doctor. Many facilities still rely on doctors to perform complex diagnosis, but nurse practitioners are more than qualified to make a simple diagnosis.
  • Primary Care: A NP can act as the primary caregiver when a doctor is not available. In some states, NPs must work in collaboration with a doctor, but in other states, this is not required. That means that you could even open your own practice as a nurse practitioner in some locations. An NP specializes in one area of medicine, like oncology or geriatrics, so the care given specifically depends on their specialty.
  • Medical Recordkeeping: With any medical facility, there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed. NPs are responsible for maintaining patient records and writing reports, among other things. Paperwork is one of the most important duties of an NP because incorrect paperwork can lead to dangerous drug interactions, an incorrect diagnosis, and other patient mix ups.
  • Management: Many NPs assume management positions at a hospital or healthcare facility. For example, an NP can work as a nurse manager which involves the supervision and scheduling of staff and overall department administration.

Overview of a Nurse Practitioner Career

Primary Job Duties:

  • Taking the patient’s history, performing physical exams, and ordering laboratory tests and procedures
  • Diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases
  • Prescribing medication, in varying degrees
  • Coordinating referrals
  • Performing certain procedures and minor surgeries, such as bone marrow biopsy or lumbar puncture
  • Providing patient education and counseling to support healthy lifestyle behaviors

Work Environment: Nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings and are often trained to practice in a specialty area. These may include:

  • Cardiology
  • Emergency
  • Family practice
  • Geriatrics
  • Neonatology
  • Oncology
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary care
  • School health
  • Women’s health

Salary and Job Outlook: Depending on the scope of practice, many NPs earn up to $113,000 a year. With an advanced degree, salaries and career opportunities are much greater for NPs.

Nurse Practitioner Requirements

The most common requirements to become a nurse practitioner include a minimum of a master’s degree in advanced nursing, a valid RN license, and passing a national certification or state-issued examination. Many states require continuing education classes or maintenance of a national certification to renew a license, and some states require nurse practitioners to obtain special licensing in order to prescribe medication. Below are the required steps to becoming a nurse practitioner:

  1. Earn a Nursing Degree- Completion of an undergraduate degree program prepares students for entry level positions in clinical settings.
  2. Become a Registered Nurse (RN)- Each state requires a practicing nurse to have an RN license.
  3. Complete a MSN degree in Nursing- RNs with a bachelor’s degree who are interested in becoming NPs can qualify for the position by earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing.
  4. Obtain an Advance Practice Nurse Licensure- Most states require additional licensure for advanced practice nurses. In addition to an NP license, others within this field include clinical nursing, nurse anesthetics, and nursing midwifery.
  5. Obtain Specialized Certification- The successful completion of a graduate degree program and licensure requirements prepare graduates to sit for certification examinations specific to their careers.

Overall, your duties as a nurse practitioner depend highly on where you work and what your specialty is. Every day brings new cases, so this is a field where it is hard to get bored. Becoming a nurse practitioner opens many doors and provides numerous career opportunities. View our list of accredited schools and degrees below to find a MSN program that meets your needs, and begin your career training today.

Featured Nurse Practitioner Programs

Purdue University

Accreditation: HLC, NCA


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Liberty University

Accreditation: SACS


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