What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) that has acquired post-graduate education.

Unlike other registered nurses, these professionals earned an MSN (DNP) degree in a particular area of healthcare.

As a result, they provide various forms of comprehensive care based on their area of specialization.

It includes monitoring patients’ health, performing assessments, and diagnosing and treating various injuries and illnesses.

Nurse practitioners also prescribe medications, act as primary healthcare providers and own and operate private clinics.

There are various specialties nurse practitioners can pursue.

For instance, they can specialize in pediatric, psychiatric, neonatal, gerontology, acute care, family care, and women’s health.

A nurse practitioner specializing in one domain cannot practice in another area without proper training and certification.

As a result, they must focus on chronic and acute ailments that fall within their scope of practice.

A nurse practitioner specializing in neonatal care isn’t a primary care provider for adult patients.

However, they can obtain education and certification to work in adult care if they pursue a different field.

A family nurse practitioner receives specialized training for patients of all ages.

Finally, whether a nurse practitioner can operate without supervision from a physician depends on state practice laws.

Full-practice states allow nurse practitioners to operate relatively independently.

Conversely, reduced and restricted practice states require a physician’s oversite for specific medical procedures.

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

Nurse practitioners can perform all of the same functions as registered nurses.

However, they have extensive training in a particular specialization, allowing them to provide more advanced medical care.

Nurse practitioners focus on specialized fields like acute care, gynecology, adult health, holistic care, and women’s rights.

As a result, they can provide adequate medical care and treatments to patients within their specialization.

NP Career Specializations

  • Acute Care
  • Adult Health
  • College Health
  • Community Health
  • Family Health
  • Gerontology
  • Gynecology
  • Holistic Care
  • Neonatology
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology
  • Palliative Care
  • Pediatrics
  • Perinatology
  • Psychiatry
  • Women’s Health

Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat their patient’s conditions, review medical histories, and prescribe medications.

They also order x-rays, research medical procedures and practices, and prescribe therapy to patients requiring rehabilitation.

Finally, nurse practitioners provide patients with information regarding their condition and educate them on improving their physical or mental ailments.

To improve the health care system, nurse practitioners may participate in an advocacy group that focuses on improving medical research and patient care.

Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat patients suffering from various mental/physical ailments.

They may perform physicals and screenings and prescribe physical therapy to patients needing physical rehabilitation.

They also review patients’ medical history, prescribe medications, take x-rays, and research medical practices and procedures to advance their knowledge.

Finally, some NPs open clinics and act as primary care providers for their patients.

With that said, not all nurse practitioners have the exact scope of practice or medical liberties.

Nurse practitioners in full-practice states can perform various medical services and have the most medical care liberties.

Those in reduced or restricted practice states may require a physician to sign off on specific medical procedures.

In addition, they may not be able to open clinics without a physician’s oversight.

Nurse practitioners can diagnose patients and prescribe medications.

However, they cannot perform surgery like some physicians and surgeons.

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work

Nurse practitioners have a broad scope of practice within their domain compared to other healthcare professionals.

As a result, they work in a wide variety of healthcare settings.

It includes hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, doctor/nurse practitioner offices, schools, and healthcare centers.

They also work in various private and public healthcare organizations to care for employees and government officials.

Work Environments:

  • Colleges
  • Community clinics
  • Doctor offices
  • Health departments/agencies/centers
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals
  • Government facilities/agencies
  • Nursing homes
  • Nurse practitioner offices
  • Schools
  • Universities
  • Urgent care centers
  • Walk-in clinics

Schedule and Hours

The hours a nurse practitioner works vary depending on the health care organization.

The institution’s staffing needs, patient load, and work environment impact an NP’s work schedule.

For instance, nurse practitioners in a hospital may work three twelve-hour shifts.

It ensures that patients receive adequate care promptly by reducing shift employee turnover.

It also gives nurse practitioners time to complete essential tasks and recover on their days off.

Conversely, nurse practitioners working at a clinic or Doctor’s office may have five eight-hour shifts.

They could work 8 am – 5 pm Monday – Friday or whatever hours the healthcare office requires.

Finally, school nurse practitioners may work during school hours and receive weekends, holidays, and summers off.

Salary Expectations

A nurse practitioner’s salary may vary depending on several factors.

It includes their location, experience, overtime, bonuses, compensations, area of specialization, and work incentives.

According to Salary.com, a nurse practitioner in the United States earn around $115,598 annually.

That said, salaries vary between $99,678 – $134,664 among the bottom 10% and top 10% of earners.

One of the most significant factors determining an NP’s salary (besides education) is their work location.

In many cases, NPs in busy high cost of living metropolis areas like New York, N.Y., make more money than nurses in rural states/locations.

It is essential to keep in mind that salary is only one part of the equation.

Some nurse practitioners earn more money in particular states.

However, living costs, taxes, and other expenses can significantly reduce any financial advantages of a higher salary.

Demand and Importance

Nurse practitioners are critical to the well-being of the healthcare field.

The healthcare field faces increasing shortages due to high retirement and a growing economy.

As a result, the need for highly educated and trained nurse practitioners will continue to grow.

According to BLS.gov, the demand for advanced practice registered nurses will increase by 45% between 2020 and 2030.

Nurse practitioners are well-trained and treat individuals with various mental and physical conditions.

They diagnose ailments, create treatment plans, review medical histories, and perform screenings and physical exams.

They also delegate physical therapy, open clinics, prescribe medications, and act as primary care providers.

Nurse practitioners push the healthcare system forward by providing the necessary medical interventions and preventative care to patients of all backgrounds.

Why Nurse Practitioners are Essential

  1. Nurse practitioners help facilitate care to patients in underserved areas
  2. NPs can open clinics, providing patients with shorter waiting times and better one on one care
  3. They can prescribe medication and treat patients without a physician (depending on the state)
  4. Nurse practitioners can prescribe rehabilitation programs for patients in physical therapy.
  5. They use their education to educate patients and families on preventative care and self-help.
  6. Nurse practitioners act as primary care providers and help reduce insurance costs.
  7. NPs develop expertise in a particular healthcare domain to provide highly specialized care.

Education Requirements

Nurse practitioners spend eight to ten years in school developing their knowledge and expertise. They must acquire a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited nursing program to earn their license.

They must also pass the national council licensure examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Overall, it takes approximately four years to earn a BSN, plus completing the prior nursing school prerequisites.

Most aspiring NPs earn their BSN and spend eight to fifteen years as registered nurses before returning to school.

It allows them to develop extensive expertise and determine what specialization to pursue.

However, there is no minimum work requirement to pursue an MSN or DNP degree.

Students can go for advanced post-graduate education after completing their BSN.

The next step is to choose an MSN or DNP program from an accredited nursing school.

It would help if you also determined the domain you want to specialize in and develop your expertise.

For instance, pursuing the MSN-FNP program is vital for students who want to become family nurse practitioners.

Career Specialties Include:

  • Acute Care
  • Adult Health
  • College Health
  • Community Health
  • Family Health
  • Gerontology
  • Gynecology
  • Holistic Care
  • Neonatology
  • Obstetrics
  • Oncology
  • Palliative Care
  • Pediatrics
  • Perinatology
  • Psychiatry
  • Women’s Health

Depending on your specialization and full-time or part-time status, it may take 2 – 4 years to complete the MSN program.

You’ll utilize textbooks, videos, simulations, and lectures/seminars during the program to learn about the specialization.

You’ll also need to complete cumulative clinical experience to earn your MSN or DNP degrees.

Finally, you’ll need to complete the proper certification examination to obtain licensure as a nurse practitioner.

Nurse Practitioners vs. Medical Doctors | The Great Debate

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with MSN or DNP (Doctors of Nursing Practice) degrees.

Nurse practitioners can attend medical school and acquire their MD if they choose.

However, they are not doctors of medicine or medical doctors (MD).

Many people have debated whether nurse practitioners provide the same level of care as medical doctors for years.

Nurse practitioners perform numerous tasks similar to medical doctors.

It includes treating mental and physical ailments, diagnosing patients’ conditions, prescribing medications, performing physical assessments and screenings, administering physical therapy, and acting as a primary care provider.

NPs acquire the highest education level in nursing and can earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP).

However, the education and training nurse practitioners receive aren’t equal to doctors/physicians.

Some states require nurse practitioners to maintain the oversight of a physician for particular medical procedures/tasks.

A doctor’s education centers on disease and medicine, allowing them to assess, diagnose and treat rare and complex conditions.

As a result, they perform expert care in emergencies other highly trained professionals are unequipped to manage.

Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat many common illnesses among patients.

They can treat most everyday patients without needing a physician/medical doctor.

However, they may require the expertise of a physician/medical doctor for more complex diseases.

Nurse practitioners train in holistic care, so they don’t possess the same knowledge as medical doctors.

Nevertheless, NPs are essential for providing healthcare to millions of individuals, especially in underserved areas.

Opening and operating healthcare clinics allow them to provide medical treatments to patients who otherwise don’t have easy access to medical care.

Patient Confusion and Insurance Payouts

Some people debate whether NPs should be referred to as doctors because they fear patients may confuse them with MDs.

Some providers claim that calling a nurse practitioner a doctor will lead patients to believe they receive care from an MD instead of an NP.

In addition, some nurse practitioners state they face more difficulty from insurance companies.

They’ve mentioned that their status as NPs makes it harder to pay patient bills.

They also receive less financial compensation for their work than doctors.

However, the growing recognition and respect of nurse practitioners and state laws may make insurance payouts easier with time.

Finally, some argue that by having more NPs in the field, doctors will make less money due to less patient volume.

However, according to a post by Business Week, the Doctor field could see a shortage of 130,000 doctors by 2025,

It gives aspiring nurse practitioners many opportunities to provide essential patient care and open primary care clinics.

The Importance of NP and MD Collaboration

NPs provide similar functions to doctors, including screenings, developing treatment plans, prescribing medications, and acting as primary healthcare providers.

However, doctors are extensively trained in medicine/disease to care for patients with rare and complex conditions.

Medical professionals play an extensive role in healthcare by providing essential treatments to people with various medical conditions.

Each occupation ensures that patients with different needs receive high-level medical care promptly.

The need for highly qualified NPs and MDs will grow as the economy grows and people age.

Nurse practitioners can provide necessary and adequate care to various medical conditions.

It helps keep medical costs down and allows patients in underserved areas to receive valuable aid.

Medical doctors/physicians utilize their diseases and medical expertise to treat complex conditions that other healthcare experts cannot.