Becoming a nurse practitioner can lead to a rewarding career in advanced practice nursing. With an expanded scope of practice, responsibility, and skillset, nurse practitioners are well suited to meet the challenges of patient care and address them through a dynamic lens. Learn more about what a nurse practitioner is, what they do, and how to become one below.
What Is A Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who work alongside fellow nurse practitioners, registered nurses, physicians, and specialists. NPs have an occupational and educational advantage over registered nurses, as their scope of practice aligns more with physicians and specialists than registered nurses. Nurse practitioners work across the healthcare continuum, including hospitals, clinics, and in some states, private practices in family, pediatric or primary care.
What Does A Nurse Practitioner Do?
Depending on where an NP is licensed and where they practice, APRNs can perform a variety of advanced-care practices that fall under their full scope of practice. Nurse practitioners can perform many duties as physicians without approval or supervision, enabling many to pursue private practice in specific care specialties or population focuses. Depending on specific state regulations, NPs can face reductions or restrictions in their scope of practice. In some states, NPs may require prior authorization from licensed physicians on patient care decisions or be unable to exercise certain practices at all. While an NP’s full scope of practice may vary, some of their job responsibilities can include the following:
- Prescribing medications.
- Evaluate and diagnose patients with an illness or disease.
- Referring patients to specialty care.
- Ordering diagnostic imaging and testing.
- Craft specific patient care plans based on a patient’s diagnosis.
Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?
Nurse practitioners can work in various patient care settings. Different healthcare settings may be better suited depending on a practitioner’s scope of practice or specialty. In general, practitioners work in many of the same places registered nurses and physicians work – including hospitals, clinics, private practice, urgent care centers, or specialty care offices. Since NPs can perform many of the same practices as physicians in some states, NPs can also find work within their private practices, large corporations, universities, house-call care, nursing homes, retirement facilities, and more.
How To Become A Nurse Practitioner?
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is enrolling in a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and obtaining licensure through the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). A BSN is required to pursue advanced degrees like a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctoral of Nursing Practice (DNP). Registered nurses who received their Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ADN) and have passed the NCLEX-RN can earn their BSN faster with an Online RN-BSN program.
Once completed, aspiring NPs can enroll directly into a graduate program or work in the field to gain experience as an RN. While there are no national requirements for experience, it is recommended that nurses work in the field before seeking licensure as an NP. Once ready, RNs can apply to an MSN or DNP program before seeking licensure. There are no national guidelines for licensure for nurse practitioners, with specific requirements and qualifications dependent upon the state. It is important to research specific requirements for programs and licensure before enrolling and committing to any program. Here are the key steps required to become a Nurse Practitioner in most states:
- Graduate High School.
- Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
- Successfully pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.
- Gain experience as a registered nurse.
- Enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
- Seek Licensure within a desired state.
- OPTIONAL: Earn a certificate or certification in a specialized practice.
What Is the Career Outlook of an NP?
Career opportunities for nurse practitioners are on the rise – with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting an employment change of 118,600 new jobs between 2021 and 2031. Nurse practitioner jobs are expected to grow at 40% through the same period – much faster than the national average. In addition, the salary for nurse practitioners is much higher than registered nurses and can vary depending on specialty and work practice. In 2021, the salary for a nurse practitioner averaged $120,680 per year.
For registered nurses who aspire to take their nursing career and patient care skills to the next level, a career as a nurse practitioner can help open doors to new and exciting opportunities in nursing, healthcare, and beyond. With a wider scope of practice, the opportunity to expand into private practice, and additional opportunities for career growth, becoming an NP is an ideal way to expand nursing practice and grow beyond a career in registered nursing.
The University of Providence’s Adulty-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) program prepares students to become primary care nurse practitioners. Learn more about becoming an AGNP on our blog.