Are you ready to take your nursing career to the next level? You may want to consider becoming a nurse practitioner.
The field of nursing is a broad one, allowing those who choose this profession to grow in their chosen career. One of the ways you can advance your registered nursing career is by becoming a nurse practitioner. These healthcare professionals are allowed more clinical independence and authority compared to registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). However, the level of autonomy and clinical authority they hold may vary depending on the laws implemented in their state of practice. Their job closely resembles that of physicians. In some states, they are allowed to practice independently, in others, they practice under the supervision of a doctor.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and are qualified to provide a variety of health services including diagnosing and treating diseases and medical conditions; ordering and interpreting laboratory tests; performing minor surgeries; providing counseling and education; and where permitted by law, prescribing medications. Nurse practitioners may choose to specialize in family, geriatric, pediatric or mental health nursing. They may work providing primary or preventive care in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, hospice and palliative care services, government and community health agencies, private practice, or patients’ homes.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nurse practitioner must first become a licensed registered nurse. The most common educational path to achieving this is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing; nevertheless, there are schools that offer bridge programs for registered nurses with a diploma or associate’s degree in nursing. These programs prepare students for the RN licensure exam.
Upon obtaining their RN license, aspiring nurse practitioners will need to acquire clinical experience and go on to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or a PhD from accredited programs. These graduate programs prepare students for a career as nurse practitioners and include in-depth courses in anatomy, pharmacology, diagnosis, and medical ethics. Students also gain valuable skills and knowledge through extensive clinical training.
Some specialties and sub-specialties, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, require the completion of additional supervised clinical experience.
Important Qualities for a Nurse Practitioner
Analytical and Observational Skills – The accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of patients hinges on a nurse practitioner’s skills for analyzing and observing a patient’s symptoms and behavior. They must be able to think and act quickly in emergency situations.
Detail Oriented – Nurse practitioners have to be especially attentive to detail especially when prescribing medication or performing surgery.
Compassion – In order to provide high quality medical care, nurse practitioners must be empathetic and patient.
Communication Skills – The job of a nurse practitioner entails constant communication with patients, their families and other healthcare professionals. They must have excellent interpersonal skills in order to convey their thoughts, instructions and observations.
Nurse Practitioner Licenses, Certifications and Registrations
In states that recognize some or all of the advanced practice nurses or APRNs roles, APRNs must hold a registered nursing license, complete an approved graduate-level program, and pass a national certification exam. In addition, the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation recommends that all APRNs earn a second license specific to one of the APRN roles and to a certain group of patients. (Source: BLS.gov)
A majority of the states require certification for APRNs, which shows proficiency in a specific APRN role. This certification is also often a requirement for licensure. Certification for nurse practitioners is available from a number of organizations. This is due to the large number of groups that NPs may work with, as well as the number of specialties in which they may practice. Some of the professional organizations that offer NP certifications are the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.