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Nurse Practitioner

Whether you’re looking for a more advanced nursing career in administration, healthcare, or education, becoming a nurse practitioner opens up these opportunities. Find out what you’ll need to do if you want to be a nurse practitioner, your responsibilities, and how much you’ll earn by reading on.

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What A Nurse Practitioner Does

As a nurse practitioner, you act as a primary and specialty healthcare provider. What you specialize in will determine your actual daily duties. The common daily events across all NP specialties will be similar to the following:

  • Talk to your patients in order to take their health history and symptoms, and record them.
  • Perform physical exams on your patients, as well as observe them for signs and symptoms.
  • If a patient has a care plan in place, contribute to that. Otherwise, create one based on needs.
  • You will perform and/or order diagnostic tests.
  • Use the medical equipment necessary.
  • Analyze test results, and diagnose and treat your patients accordingly.
  • Give your patient medication, and observe the reaction. Adjust as necessary.
  • Collaborate with your patient’s medical team.
  • Discuss treatment and course of action with your patients and their family.
  • You may also conduct research.

How To Become A Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner isn’t a quick process. But, it’s definitely going to be worth it once you’re there. Here’s how to become a NP:

  • Take loads of science courses while you’re still in high school.
  • Also, volunteer in healthcare facilities like hospitals or clinics.
  • After you graduate high school, you’ll go off to a college or university where you’ll work towards your Bachelor of Science-Nursing (BSN). This must be through an accredited nursing program to be eligible to sit for your RN certification. Not going through an accredited program will have a serious and negative impact on your plans to become a NP.
  • OR, you can choose to go to your local community college where you’ll get an associate degree in nursing. However, if becoming a nurse practitioner is your dream, you will definitely need your bachelor’s degree to go on and get the necessary master’s degree.
  • After you’ve become a registered nurse, because that’s the first stop on your way to NP, you’ll take (and pass, of course) the NCLEx-RN.
  • You need to work as an RN for a couple of years prior to entering the graduate program.
  • You’ve put in those two years, yay you. Now it’s time to go and get your Master of Science-Nursing. This is the bare bones minimum to becoming a nurse practitioner. It will take 1-4 years to complete this program, which will allow you to work at various medical facilities in roles of leadership.
  • You will have to take and pass the NCLEx-NP, so your master’s program, like the programs before, must be accredited.

There are many online programs available, as well as ones through hospitals. You may also want to consider a hybrid program that combines online and in-person attendance.

NP Specialties

Becoming a nurse practitioner will allow you to choose an area of specialty. Specializing isn’t a requirement, but the options are there.

  • Urgent Care NP: In every city and town, on pretty much every corner, you’ll see urgent care clinics. These have created many openings for nurse practitioners. 
  • Emergency Department NP: Days can be hectic, and the hours long. But, you are helping save lives.
  • Psychiatric NP: You’ll work with psychiatrists if you specialize in psychiatric work. 
  • Hospital Based NP: When you’re based in the hospital, you’ll manage the care of your patients from admittance to when they are discharged. 
  • Women’s Health NP: A women's health NP specializes in women's healthcare including gynecology, fertility or maternal/fetal medicine, and obstetrics.
  • Family Practice NP: Working as a Family Practice NP is similar in nature to a physician. Over 50 percent of NPs go into this specialty.
  • Cardiology NP: You’ll work in the cardiac care unit of hospitals, or other types of healthcare facilities. 
  • Pain Management NP: As a pain management NP, you will be responsible for the care of patients with chronic and/or severe pain. You will provide relief through administering medications, and possibly other therapeutic methods. 

Associations For Nurse Practitioners

Nurses of all types have to keep up with emerging healthcare trends and news. One important way to do this is by joining associations related to your field.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners: This is the largest organization for NPs and was founded in 1985.

The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties: They have helped to establish guidelines and curriculum for NP programs across the nation since the mid-1970s.

American Nurses Association: Here to promote safe and healthy working conditions for nursing. They’ve also set the standard for nursing and healthcare.

National Academy of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: Over 8,500 members and growing. Pediatric nurses from RNs to NPs have been joining the NAPNAP, which has been around since 1973.

Doctors of Nursing Practice: A not-for-profit organization founded in 2006 by a group of doctors and nursing students. They hold annual conferences for Doctors of Nursing Practice.

Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association: Holding continuing education conferences since 1981.

Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health: Founded in 1980, the Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health ensures the provision of quality healthcare to women everywhere.

Salary And Job Outlook

When you’re just starting out as a nurse practitioner, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is likely you will earn a salary close to $94,000, which is well above the national average for starting salaries. 

After gaining a few years of experience, you can generally expect to earn closer to the national average salary of an NP. In 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nurse practitioners earned an average of $128,490. The top 10 percent brought home closer to $168,030 or more. You’ll find that hospitals pay the highest salaries, with outpatient care centers and health practitioner offices paying well, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports an occupational growth of 38 percent - which is much faster than average. The massive employment growth is due to an increase in the demand for healthcare, especially in more underserved areas and from the aging baby boomers. By the year 2032, it is expected there will be an added 29,200 nurse practitioner job openings each year across the nation.