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Nurse PractitionerIf your passion for nursing has you wanting to take on more responsibilities for patient care, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) might be the challenge you seek. This role allows you to perform many of the same functions and procedures as physicians. Nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) position that requires additional education and rewards you with a higher salary. reports that NPs out-earn RNs by over $30,000 and can expect to double an LPN’s annual wages.

What do nurse practitioners do?

Although the scope of practice varies from state to state, 20 states currently provide NPs with “full practice authority.” This means they can examine patients, order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests, provide treatment, and prescribe medication exactly as doctors do without requiring a physician’s supervision.

In the remaining states, NPs still have more authority than RNs but often require a doctor’s signature when making certain patient health care decisions. Some NPs choose to specialize and care for a certain population of people by practicing pediatric health, geriatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.

What are the educational requirements for nurse practitioners?

A master’s degree (MSN) is the most common form of entry-level education for NPs, and you must have a registered nursing (RN) license before pursuing a master’s degree from an accredited program. These intensive programs typically take a minimum of two years to complete. You then earn your advanced practice nursing license. (Exam and certification requirements vary from state to state.)

Because most APRN master’s programs prefer candidates who have a Bachelor’s in Nursing Science (BSN) degree, many nursing schools offer RN-to-BSN programs that allow current RNs with an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing, as well as non-nursing students with a bachelor’s in a related health science field, to earn a BSN at an accelerated pace.

What is the compensation and job outlook for nurse practitioners?

The BLS estimates job growth for NPs to be 31 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. This rapid growth is attributable to:

  • Health care legislation creating a large pool of newly insured patients
  • Increased emphasis on preventive care
  • Demand for health care services from the large, aging baby-boom population
  • Growing number of patients with chronic and acute conditions

The median annual salary in 2015 for nurse practitioners was $98,190, according to the BLS, with the top earners found in hospitals and physician offices.

What type of person excels in this career field?

Are you wondering if you would make a good nurse practitioner? A passion for science is a good starting point, coupled with the ability to think quickly, independently, and resourcefully. This role requires exacting attention to detail and sharp critical thinking skills.

NPs need excellent communication and interpersonal skills, because they work as part of a collaborative healthcare team. You must be compassionate and able to empathize with patients who may be experiencing pain or feeling fear. You need strong leadership skills, because NPs often hold positions of seniority and manage other nurses or office staff when providing patient care.

Where can nurse practitioners work?

Because NPs have extensive experience as working nurses coupled with advanced studies that qualify them to take on additional duties usually left to physicians, more and more hospitals and health care facilities are utilizing NPs. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates that NPs can provide 80-90 percent of the care that primary care physicians offer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 48 percent of NPs work in physician offices, with 28 percent found in state, local, and private hospitals. The remainder works in outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, and nursing homes. Some NPs transition from hands-on patient care to pursuing managerial or administrative positions.