How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners are practice nurses generally working along with and in place of primary care physicians. They are registered nurses with clinical training and a graduate degree, typically masters in nursing. Some of their duties include physicals, diagnostic testing, diagnosing, prescribing medications and treatment, and patient care planning and management. Nurse Practitioners may easily find work in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care clinics, emergency rooms, in government agencies, and may also practice independently in their own private practices.
According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, there are approximately 135,000 NP’s currently practicing in the U.S. as of 2010. They provide care to the tune of 600 million visits annually.
MSN Direct-Entry Programs
Direct-entry nursing programs provide an opportunity to become a licensed RN, even though you may have a different kind of BA degree such as psychology or biological science. These programs are also commonly referred to as a Clinical nurse leader’s programs.
Advanced practice areas in nursing include: Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Nurse Midwifery (CNM), Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and Nurse Practitioner (NP). RN First Assistants (RNFA) are also considered as advanced practice nurses.
Clinical pharmacology, health assessment, pathophysiology and health promotion may be included in a typical course of study of most NP programs.
Online LPN to BSN Bridge Program
Licensed Practical Nurses may pursue a BSN degree online through Indiana State University's LPN to BSN program.
Upon graduation from the LPN-to-BSN program they may then enjoy higher salary and better job opportunities as registered nurses while using tuition assistance programs to pay for an online nurse practitioner program and may become a NP.
BSN Fast-Track Programs
There is yet another alternative for those wanting to pursue a NP license and certification. But, the first step of course is to become an RN. There are accelerated bachelors of science in nursing programs (BSN) which prepare those with a BA degree in another field for RN licensure.
After about a year of RN working experience, nurses may apply to the traditional MSN school and complete NP training. While the accelerated BSN route may be quicker to obtaining the RN license, it may still take about the same time when figuring in the pre-nursing coursework, plus the year of work experience required by traditional MSN schools.
Employment Outlook For Nurse Practitioners
Due to the increase in the elderly population and shortage of primary care physicians, the demand for NP’s are expected to grow as a more cost-effective solution to healthcare. Many states are now accepting nurse practitioners as Medicaid providers, reimbursing at the rate of physicians. Congress has also passed legislation for NP reimbursement under Medicare.
Nurse practitioners may specialize in many different areas. Specialization allows NP’s to focus on providing healthcare services to a particular population or area of practice. The University of California San Francisco School of Nursing boasts 10 areas of specialization for NP’s: Acute Care NP, Adult NP, Family NP, Midwifery-Women’s Health NP, Pediatric NP, Neonatal NP, Acute Care Pediatric NP, Psychiatric NP, Gerontology NP, and Occupational Health NP.
NP’s also practice within sub-specialties such as neurology or orthopedics. Those who specialize are certified nationally by the American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American Nurses Association.