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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Are you interested in learning how to become a nurse practitioner? While nursing degrees offers interesting careers at all levels, more registered nurses than ever are looking into graduate schools and online nurse practitioner programs. Graduate degree programs leading to nurse practitioner certification can give you the education and skill set needed for advanced clinical nursing practice.

Why become a nurse practitioner?

By building on the basic skills and experience that registered nurses have in assessment and intervention to promote and restore health, nurses are ideally situated to advance their practice into services that overlap with physicians. Nurse practitioner programs prepare students for an expanded role that includes ordering diagnostic tests, performing a thorough history and physical examination, and prescribing medications or therapy. Many nurses enjoy the increased responsibility and autonomy that accompany this role. Since the first nurse practitioner programs were developed in the mid 1960s, studies and experience have established both the high quality and cost effectiveness of nurse practitioner provided health care. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there are about 140,000 practicing NPs in the United States. As physicians have moved into specialty areas, opportunities for NPs to provide primary care with a nursing touch are expanding.

What are the requirements to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are licensed by the state in which they practice. Requirements for NP licensure are a current RN license in that state and certification by a recognized national certification board such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The certification test can be taken following completion of the MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree from an accredited school of nursing. Many nursing schools are moving toward offering a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) degree, and it is likely that the DNP will be come the requirement for nurse practitioners entering the field after 2015. Following certification and licensure, many NPs also pursue credentialing and privileging which allows them to practice in specific hospitals.

Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners

AANP information indicates that nearly 8,000 NP students graduate each year from over 325 nursing schools. Following certification and licensure, NPs practice in a wide variety of settings in both primary care and acute care settings, rural as well as urban, caring for patients from the youngest neonates to the very elderly. Incomes vary among specialties, with experience, and with location, with an average annual salary of $89,579 in 2009 (2009 National Salary and Workplace Survey, ADVANCE for NPs & PAs). Interestingly, the highest paid NP positions were in nontraditional areas: aesthetics/ skincare, emergency departments, mental health, house call services, and neonatal care.

Demand for Nurse Practitioners is likely to grow as health insurance coverage gives more people the opportunity to seek preventive services. An aging population with associated increases in chronic illness such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease will also increase demand, as will projected physician shortages. The cost-effective, high-quality, and caring service typical of nurse practitioners should continue to make them an indispensable component of the health care team well into the future.


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