Nurse practitioners are one of the most valuable members of a healthcare team. With more responsibility and autonomy than a traditional RN or BSN, but still considered a nurse first and foremost, nurse practitioners strike a great balance between traditional medical doctors and more hands-on, focused care.
Because nurse practitioners are one step higher than registered nurses on the professional food chain, there are additional educational requirements. However, with these increased educational milestones come greater options in professional advancement as well as a higher rate of pay.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Registered nurses (RNs) typically take on two levels of education: those with an Associate degree in Nursing (ADN) or those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In both cases, nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to be licensed to work in the United States.
To advance beyond this level to become a nurse practitioner, it is necessary to get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or even a doctorate. Almost all master’s-level programs require a BSN or a similar level of education to even get in. This means that nurses who only have an Associate degree may have to first get a higher degree before even considering a nurse practitioner program, which can mean up to six additional years of training. Nurses with a BSN or higher may only need two to four years in order to complete their degrees.
Nurse Practitioner Courses
The daily tasks of a nurse practitioner differ from a traditional RN in that these professionals are able to diagnose and treat a number of different conditions, as well as order tests, prescribe some types of medications, or even make referrals. In many cases, the nurse practitioner has a leadership role in the medical setting or the community as a whole, which involves taking on tasks related to health screening, disease education and prevention, and health counseling.
Because there is such a wide field of specialties open to a nurse practitioner, the education requirements are equally broad and taxing. Assuming the nurse has already reached the Bachelor’s level, and a particular area of specialty has been chosen, additional classes may include:
- Medical Assessment and Diagnostics
- Integrative Practicums/Clinicals
- Nurse Educator
- Nurse Midwifery
- Nursing Administration
- Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing
- Women’s Health
- Health Care Management
- Health Informatics
Nurse practitioners are required to be licensed to perform just about anywhere in the United States. An exam and license through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is typically required upon completion of an accredited nurse practitioner program.