Nurse Practitioner Training Program and Career Information

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Nurse practitioners are RNs who have received advanced education and training so that they are qualified to take on some of the responsibilities that doctors typically assume, including conducting physical exams and prescribing medications.

To become a nurse practitioner, one must first be a registered nurse who has received a BSN from an accredited institution. Becoming an NP requires additional masters-level training at an accredited program, and many programs allow for specialization in fields such as pediatric, family care, adult or gerontological care, or health policy. Nurse practitioners must also obtain licensure from their state's board of nursing.

Nurse Practitioner Education Programs

Becoming a nurse practitioner involves fulfilling several years of educational requirements, as well as clinical training. Candidates for this profession must first be registered nurses who have completed a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) at an accredited institution.

RNs can become nurse practitioners by earning a Masters of Science degree at an accredited nursing school or program. Nurse practitioner degree programs typically include but are not limited to courses on the following topics:

  • Health Assessments -- how to take patient histories, conduct complete physical examinations, and identify common medical issues. How to address different situations within medical assessment, including both primary and acute health care scenarios.
  • Clinical Pharmacology -- different drug groups, their clinical uses, and their mechanisms of action. Important drug interactions and side effects are also covered.
  • Disease Prevention and Health Promotion -- how to advise and educate patients and their families about health issues and preventative medicine.
  • Clinical Situations in Nursing -- how to integrate medical knowledge, nursing ethics, and psychological and social elements into hands-on clinical practice. Professional issues that nurse practitioners routinely address are also typically covered.
  • Nursing Ethics -- a foundation of medical ethics and an explanation of how to address certain healthcare situations from an ethical perspective.
  • Medical Research and its Practical Application -- how to bring the latest medical research into one's role as a clinical nurse practitioner and health educator.
  • Human Development and Family Planning -- the major concepts, research, and theories relevant to human lifespan and development. Factors that affect human and family development are also typically explored. How to help individuals and their families optimize health outcomes.
  • Diagnosis and Management of Illness and Injury -- how to provide medical to patients who have both chronic and acute medical conditions.

In addition to credit courses, students training to become nurse practitioners must typically complete several hours of supervised clinical training. Hours for this training vary across programs, so it is best to check with each program one is interested in.

Certification and Licensure

After NP candidates graduate from their Master's of Science program in nursing, they must typically obtain licensure within their state, and may also be required to earn certification from an organization such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Other organizations that provide certifications include the American Nurses' Association and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

Work Environment and Typical Responsibilities

Nurse practitioners often work in hospital settings or in medical clinics, and can specialize in a particular field such as family nursing, geriatrics, or pediatric care. NPs interact on a daily basis with physicians, RNs, LPNs/LVNs, medical assistants, and the patients whom they treat.

Nurse practitioners differ from RNs in that they generally have more professional autonomy -- while RNs must work under the supervision of a physician, some NPs have their own private practice. In addition, NPs have the ability to prescribe medications and perform some treatment or examination procedures that other nurses are not authorized to perform.

Nurse practitioners' general responsibilities include:

  • Ordering and analyzing the results of diagnostic medical tests such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), radiographs (x-rays), and complete blood counts (CBCs)
  • Conducting complete physical examinations and analyze exam results
  • Prescribing certain medications and their dosages
  • Diagnosing and treating acute medical conditions such as infections, injuries, or illnesses
  • Developing plans for patient treatment based on patients' needs
  • Counseling patients and their families regarding optimal methods for self-care and/or management of chronic medical conditions

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners made an average annual salary of $91,450 in May of 2012. According to O*Net, employment outlook for this profession is robust at 20 to 28 percent between 2010 and 2020.


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics
Stanford School of Medicine: Health Career: Nurse Practitioner
O*Net Online: Nurse Practitioners
Johns Hopkins University: School of Nursing
Medline Plus: Nurse Practitioner
Mayo School of Health Sciences

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