Expanded Nursing with the Nurse Practitioner Degree

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). They have more education and specialization than registered nurses, can work more independently than other nurses, and take on expanded roles in patient care. All APRNs have a master’s degree or higher, and typically use the extra education to specialize in an area such as oncology or pediatrics. Pursuing a degree as a nurse practitioner is an ideal step for those currently in roles as registered nurses (RN) wishing to develop further within their careers.

As with all nurses, nurse practitioners spend a great deal of time—usually more than physicians—with patients, so excellent communication skills are necessary. You may be interacting with people who are in a lot of pain, are scared, stressed and worried. Compassion for patients, the ability to see them through an illness without burning out, and the passion to advocate for their rights and treatment are all necessary skills for a nurse practitioner. Many nurses find the ability to positively impact their patient’s lives highly rewarding.

Nurse Practitioner Degree Information

A master’s degree in nursing is the minimum requirement with students expected to choose an area to specialize in. These typically include the following:

  • Geriatric care
  • Acute care
  • Pediatric care
  • Emergency care
  • Psychiatric care

An RN license, a B.S. in nursing, and a minimum of two years working experience is also required in order to enroll for a nurse practitioner degree

Nurse Practitioner Curriculum

The coursework to become a nurse practitioner incorporates a mix of classroom and clinical experience whilst including elements of:

  • Nursing management
  • Nursing research
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Clinical Diagnosis
  • Family care
  • Pathophysiology
  • Patient assessment

Getting a Degree Online

Traditional as well as online programs are available to become a nurse practitioner, offering various cost and schedule options.

Some of the top online accredited schools to offer a nurse practitioner degree include: Western Governors University, Graceland University, University of Cincinnati and the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing. Other schools can be researched by using the form on this page.

Licensure and Certification

Nurse practitioners are licensed by the state in which they practice, typically by the state’s board of nursing. Certification tests are required in some states, as are additional educational requirements for prescribing medicine

After graduation, nurse practitioners may also choose to take a national certification test in their specialty to become certified. The largest certifying organizations are the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Eligibility requirements vary by specialty.

Career Opportunities

Nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings. Most work in urgent care centers, hospitals, and physicians’ offices. Opportunities are also available in colleges and universities, the military, and the government. A nursing practitioner career is considered very portable; you can move almost anywhere in the U.S. and find job openings. Nursing as a whole is a very stable profession, with demand expected to continue to grow at least through 2020.

Earning Potential

The median salary for a nurse practitioner is $80,000-$100,000 annually, depending on experience and geographic areas. Salaries are typically higher in large cities, and are currently highest in California. Per diem and hourly work are also popular options for nurse practitioners.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for all registered nurses is expected to rise 26%, substantially faster than average, by the year 2020. Growth is expected to occur because of an aging baby-boomer population needing more medical services, more preventative care, and new technologies.

FAQ

How is a nurse practitioner different from other nurses?

All nurses have a common goal—to prevent illness and injury, treat and alleviate pain from disease or injury, and to advocate for patients, families and communities (American Nurses Association). Within the nursing profession, nurses can be differentiated by educational attainment or by specialization. A nurse practitioner is classified as an APRN, or advanced practice nurse because of his/her graduate degree. Unlike most nurses, NPs are able to prescribe medication. Registered nurses (RN) and licensed vocational nurses (LVN) each have less education, clinical freedom, and earning potential than NPs.

What can I expect in a job as a nurse practitioner?

Specific job duties vary widely depending on where you work. In a physician’s office, you may see patients all day just as the doctor does, calling them in for consults as needed. Diagnosis, prescription of medication or treatment, and preventative appointments are all handled by NPs.

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