December 18, 2015

Nurse Practitioner Careers

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

A nurse practitioner performs these important roles, according to Johnson & Johnson:

  • Diagnosing disorders

  • Prescribing medication

  • Creating treatment plans

  • Ordering laboratory test

Nurse Practitioner Job Characteristics

  • Work requires independent actions.

  • Responsibilities are structured.

  • Duties are multifaceted.

  • The job includes significant face-to-face patient contact.

What Is A Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses (RNs) with advanced education and training in primary and specialty health care.  They typically hold masters or doctoral degrees. Nurse practitioners take a comprehensive approach that stresses overall health and wellness.  This career path came into its own in the 1960s due to a national physician shortage. According to the Mayo Clinic , NPs can perform between 60 and 80 percent of preventive and primary care.  Many of these professionals opt to work in a specialty such as cardiology, pediatrics, mental health, or women’s health, where they work alongside physicians.

How Do I Become an NP?

The path toward becoming an NP begins with obtaining an RN designation.  Candidates can do this by finishing a two- or four-year nursing degree or completing a hospital training program.  To be eligible for licensing, graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).  After gaining clinical experience, an RN needs to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) to be able to apply for NP certification, allNursingSchools reports.  The traditional MSN route includes prior completion of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).  However, many schools allow a candidate without a four-year degree to complete bridge training for admission to a master’s program.  Online MSN programs are also available.  For an MSN, RNs take courses and complete clinical training in a specialty.  Some with an interest in nursing education or research earn one of several types of nursing doctorates.  Two organizations offer NP certification:  the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

What Are The Degree Requirements For An NP?

NP licensing varies per state.  Generally, however, states require a master’s degree in nursing plus national certification for licensing.

Among the top NP programs cited by U.S. News & World Report are these:

What Certification Is Needed For An NP?

After completing an MSN, an RN can sit for a national certification exam.  The ANCC awards certification in six NP areas that cover types of acute, adult, gerontology, mental health, family, school, and pediatric care.  The AANP has three certification categories and exams:  Adult Nurse Practitioner (exam to be retired at the end of 2016), Family Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner.

What Are the CEU Requirements As An NP?

In order to maintain a current license, RNs must complete continuing education requirements in the state in which they are working.  The list by state is available in our continuing nursing education guide.  Renewing NP certification requires submitting information on professional development activities.  Continuing education units from approved sources are one method of meeting this requirement.

Where Can I Work As An NP?

  • Hospitals

  • Home health care

  • Healthcare technology companies

  • Military facilities

  • Private practice

  • Physicians’ offices

  • Outpatient facilities

  • Surgery centers

  • Research projects

  • Pharmaceutical firms

Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.

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