Nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals that have more responsibilities compared to registered nurses. Right now, the role of the nurse practitioner is experiencing increasing demand across the country for a range of different reasons. Along with a population that is ageing, a shortage of primary care doctors has led to a situation where more nurse practitioners are needed to provide primary care to patients and make that the healthcare industry continues to run smoothly and continuously. Nurse practitioners have more autonomy and responsibility than registered nurses in twenty-two US states, allowing them to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to their patients without requiring supervision or sign-off from a medical doctor. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who have a higher earning potential than registered nurses, along with being able to continue providing direct patient care.
What is the Nurse Practitioner Role?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who has earned an advanced nursing qualification such as these nurse practitioner programs in Texas from Baylor University. Some nurse practitioners have a master’s degree in nursing while others have taken specialist nurse practitioner training programs that are designed to prepare them to work in this role in their chosen area of specialty. These healthcare professionals have a very high level of advanced nursing training to prepare them for a role that involves many of the same decisions and responsibilities of a primary care doctor.
Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners will typically have more responsibilities compared to a registered nurse. In states where nurse practitioners have full practice authority, they can run their own practices and clinics without the need for a primary care physician to be on hand to sign their decisions off. Unlike registered nurses, this means that nurse practitioners in these states can start their own clinics offering primary care or specialist care to patients. Along with this, nurse practitioners are increasingly needed in a wide range of healthcare work environments including hospitals, outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices, retail clinics, urgent care centers and more.
Nurse Practitioner Roles
For nurses who choose to get into the role of a nurse practitioner, there are various roles and specialty areas to consider. These include:
Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners treat patients of all ages. Typically, they will work in a primary care role, either running their own practice or clinic in a state where they have full practice authority, working in another nurse practitioner run clinic, or working in a doctor’s office alongside a primary care physician.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
A pediatric nurse practitioner will work exclusively with children. They often specialize in diseases that are more common in children compared to adults. Most of the time, pediatric nurse practitioners work in pediatric hospitals, departments, and clinics.
Retail Health Nurse Practitioner
This newer nurse practitioner role involves working exclusively in retail clinics. Retail clinics are a relatively new and emerging type of healthcare service that is becoming more and more popular. Retail clinics can often be found in drugstores, superstores, pharmacies, and other retail settings to provide patients with somewhere that they can go to get health advice and treatment for minor complaints.
Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Adult gerontology nurse practitioners tend to work exclusively with adults. Much of the time, their role is focused on the care and treatment of older adults and seniors.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Neonatal nurse practitioner roles are some of the most highly skilled with the biggest earning potential. Neonatal nurse practitioners work in neonatal intensive care units where they are tasked with providing highly specialist care to newborn babies who have been born prematurely, have birth defects, or other health issues that requires them to stay in hospital at the beginning of their life.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
These nurse practitioners are specially trained to work with patients who are suffering with mental health conditions. They will typically work in outpatient clinics, psychiatric hospitals, treatment and rehab centers, and various other settings where patients with mental health disorders and addictions are treated.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Whether you are considering a future nursing career or are already working as a nurse and want to become a nurse practitioner in the future, the first step to getting into this role is to become a registered nurse. If you are already working in the field and do not yet have a BSN, now is the time to get one since any advanced degree designed to prepare you to work as a nurse practitioner will usually require this qualification as a minimum. Once you have earned your nursing degree, you will need to pass the NCLEX and gain a license to practice as a registered nurse in your state.
Once you are licensed to work as a registered nurse, you should consider getting as much nursing experience as possible, since a minimum level of experience in the nursing field is usually required to get a graduate degree in nursing to prepare you to become a nurse practitioner. Your experience will also be considered when applying for future nurse practitioner roles. Consider getting nursing experience in a wide range of different healthcare settings since this will help you determine which specialty area you would prefer to get into.
Finally, you will need a graduate degree to work as a nurse practitioner. You can get a master’s degree in nursing or a specialist master’s program that is designed specifically to prepare you for working in a nurse practitioner role. You can get these qualifications online or by attending a traditional college or nursing school depending on your circumstances and what works best for you. Once graduated, you will need to pass further exams to practice as an advanced practice registered nurse in your state.
If you are considering becoming a nurse in the future or are already working as a nurse and hope to advance your career, there are many reasons to consider working as a nurse practitioner with more autonomy, various specialty roles to choose from, high demand, and great earning potential.