What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

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What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Career Development
What is a nurse practitioner
Dr. Maria Pfrommer
December 22, 2016

Nursing is an in-demand profession because of shortages across the country, and one of the fastest-growing nursing-related careers is for family nurse practitioner (NP).

An NP is an advanced practice nurse who is educated at the master’s level or higher and has a foundation as a registered nurse. Nurse Practitioners provide advanced level care that includes health promotion, health prevention, wellness and disease management, as well as diagnosis and treating acute, chronic, and episodic illness. NPs can prescribe medications and a variety of treatment modalities, and work in many different healthcare environments.

According to U.S. News and World Report, a nurse practitioner is the fifth-best healthcare occupation. The reasons for this high ranking include an array of job opportunities, high job satisfaction and good salaries. Also, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be job growth for nurse practitioners in the next 10 years. Learn more about how much money a FNP can make by state. Your average salary will depend largely on the state in which you practice, your level of experience and what medical setting you work in.

FNP vs. NP: the “family” difference

A family nurse practitioner is a type of NP who specializes in the broad spectrum of family care. Most nurse practitioners will specialize in care for a particular age group (pediatric, geriatric, etc.) while family nurse practitioners are capable of working with patients of all ages across various specialties. Read more detail on delineating FNP vs. NP.

Family nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, primary care offices, urgent care centers and retail health clinics. With a master’s degree, nurse practitioners can also teach at the undergraduate nursing level. Those who attain a doctorate degree can teach at the graduate level.

NPs generally specialize in a specific population group. For example:

  •  Family nurse practitioners see patients of all ages
  •  Pediatric nurse practitioners treat patients from infancy to age 18
  •  Adult nurse practitioners work with patients from age 18 to age 65
  •  Geriatric nurse practitioners handle patients 65 and older

Becoming a nurse practitioner: steps to take

To become an NP you first need to be an RN and earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing. To advance to the graduate level, you usually need to attain a GPA of a 3.0, serve one year or more as a registered nurse, and have an active, unencumbered registered nursing license. Many schools require additional graduate school tests, an essay and letters of recommendation.

The graduate level also offers several pathways to become a nurse practitioner. The most common path is to enter at the BSN level and progress to the MSN level. An increasing trend that is well-supported by many nursing organizations is to enter at the BSN level and proceed to the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. This option may/may not include an MSN degree; however, many programs offer a nurse practitioner option in one or more specialty tracks. And yes, you can get your nurse practitioner degree online in many MSN programs.

Another popular option for master’s prepared nurses is the post-master’s degree option. With this option, the master’s prepared nurse can expand the scope to include more clinical-based education and practice. This is an ideal option for a nurse educator or as a path forward to the DNP degree.

Board certification is required for NPs in most states after completing the program of study. The typical time for completion for full-time students is about three years and for part-time is about five years. View our accredited online FNP program for a sample curriculum.

For more information on what is needed to become a nurse practitioner, Herzing has put together a full step-by-step guide:

  1. Understand what an FNP does
  2. Become a BSN-prepared RN
  3. Enroll in a master’s degree program
  4. Complete your clinicals and graduate
  5. Pass the certification exam
  6. Get licensed in your state
  7. Start your career as a nurse practitioner

They also provide more detail on finding an NP preceptor for the clinical portion of the program. This can be a big challenge for many students, and Herzing supports you as much as possible in your search.

I became an NP to help my patients at a much more autonomous level. I also wanted to be at the forefront of healthcare transformation because nurse practitioners focus on health promotion and health prevention. If you have additional questions about this career, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or email me at: Mlauerpfrommer@herzing.edu.

Dr. Pfrommer recently graduated from the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program at Duke University and holds a Ph.D. in Post-Secondary Education Dr. Pfrommer is an independent Contractor for Department of Veterans Affairs and the FNP Chair at Herzing University Online.

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