Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

A nurse’s job is not only as simple as taking care of the sick patients and following doctor’s orders. Being a nurse is like having a passport which allows you to explore numerous career advancement opportunities. One of the most known career advancement for nurses is becoming a nurse practitioner.

What is a nurse practitioner?

 Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have advanced clinical education and training in a health care specialty that have more responsibilities for rendering patient care than Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses. They are authorized to work independently which focused on managing people’s health conditions, identifying the risk factors and preventing disease. They can prescribe medication, assess patients, diagnose diseases, request diagnostic tests and provide treatment which almost the same with what primary physicians usually do. NPs are the providers of choice for millions of Americans.

Career outlook for Nurse practitioners

According to Bureau of Labor and Statics (BLS) May 2015 data, the annual average salary of a nurse practitioner is $101,260. This is almost a double amount of annual average salary of RN’s and LPN’s.

Some of the top paying nursing practitioner jobs are General Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Family Nurse Practitioner.chart1.jpg

The demand for Nursing Practitioners is still increasing. As matter of fact, the projected demand will grow up to 31 percent within 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average demand rate for other occupations. The increasing demand for NP’s are due to the shortage of primary care physicians, the lower professional fee of NP’s compared to physicians, large aging population, more demand of nurses underserved and Rural Areas, and increasing demand for outpatient care. Aside from their skills as an NP, their traits and personalities are very appealing to the community. NP’s are compassionate, empathetic, calm even under stress, resourceful and good decision maker.

Like any other professional there are prerequisites needed to be accomplished for you to be a Nurse practitioner.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

1. After graduating from High school, pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited program which usually takes 4 years to complete. There are two main NP accredited program agencies: The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN).

2. Take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a Registered Nurse.

3. Once you have your license, the next step is to gain experience. It is common for aspiring NP’s to have their experience and training in their chosen field.

4. After getting experience, the next step is to apply for graduate schools that offer advanced degree programs, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). DNP is usually taken for four years. It is the highest level of nursing education and is the recommended end degree for nurses who wants to be a nurse practitioner.  However, most aspiring NP’s still choose to MSN as their degree to take. MSN is only taken for two years and it is more required by some states to acquire licensure and do not required a DNP degree for nurse practitioners.

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, don’t you worry. There are institutions that offer special bridge programs that assist nurses who do not have bachelor’s degrees, or currently in a different field, to earn their advanced degree in nursing. These are called RN-to-MSN programs or ADN-to-MSN (Associate Degree in Nursing to Master’s).

Some schools offer financial aid or scholarship programs for those who wants to pursue nursing practitioner degree.

According to Nurse Journal, there are top 10 affordable schools that are offering bridge programs. Most of them are private except for the University of Arizona. All of these schools are accredited by CCNE, only Frontier University have both accreditations (ACME and CNE).


5. After you have gained enough experience and completed the required curriculum, the next step is to earn your licensure and certification. Exam requirements differ from state to state. Certification requirements depend on the specialty that an aspirant wants to pursue. American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) categorized the 50 states into three practice types.

Full Practice: This is the most recommended model by the Institute of Medicine and National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The scope of practice almost similar to responsibilities of a physician which includes assessment, diagnosing, prescribing and requesting treatments or diagnostic tests needed.

Reduced Practice: The scope of PN practice is limited to at least one element. The state requires a collaborative agreement with other health practitioners.

Restricted Practice: This restricts the ability of a nurse practitioner to practice her responsibilities independently. The state requires the NP’s to work under supervision or physician’s order.

6. After all the requirements were completed, you may now start working as a nursing practitioner. Some of the nurse practitioners pursue further specialization.

Nursing Practitioner Specializations

Being a nurse practitioner is a gateway from which many professionals move into specialized roles. There are many places where a nurse practitioner could work such as community care programs, hospitals, hospices, physician’s offices, the military, the prison system, Nurse-managed clinics, schools, and homes. Here are some popular nurse practitioner specialties nowadays.

  • Family Nurse Practitioner – focuses on serving families, younger children, and women. Among all the specialization of NP’s, this is the most popular.
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – usually serving older patients. Their responsibilities are focused on longevity and management of adult life span. Acute and chronic care for geriatric patients is common on this field.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – The responsibilities under this field is geared towards primary care from infancy to adolescence. If you love babies and kids, then this one is suited for you.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – focuses on intensive care newborns especially those who are high-risk neonates up to two years of age.
  • Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner –  their scope of practice includes assessment, diagnosing, and treatment of individuals or families with psychiatric disorders.

This what makes Nurse Practitioners distinct among other health workers today. They may have a lot of responsibilities to fulfill but the title itself and the privileges of being NP is a worthwhile and profitable job.

Are you ready to take your career to the next level?


About the author

cherry-ann-vincentCherry Ann A. Vicente was born and raised in Laguna, Philippines. The eldest among her four siblings took up Bachelor of Science in Nursing and became a Registered Nurse in 2009. She was an active volunteer of Philippine Red Cross, an organization which is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. After a year of doing charity works, she started to work in a primary hospital as an Emergency and Staff nurse. A small but terrible one, she used to assist geriatric, pediatric and post-operative patients where most of them are classified as critically-ill patients. She was working in the hospital for almost two years when she got pregnant with his only child. Then she stopped working for a while and focus on taking care of her child.

Currently, she is a freelance writer and a full-time Quality Analyst for an insurance company. Her passion for serving others continue as she signed up in Philippine Red Cross and became a blood donor. She uses her writing talent to widen the awareness of the society regarding the value of Nurses. She may not be working in the hospital now, but by assisting others to their health care concerns, she is still practicing not only her profession but also her vocation to save lives

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