What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has earned an advanced degree that allows them to assume responsibilities for care and administration that are not available to regular nurses. Nurse practitioners are often working in areas of high specialization and may make certain decisions that are usually entrusted to physicians. Nurse practitioners are often referred to as NPs or advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). MPs often but not always work closely with a physician, but in some areas, they are allowed to take certain responsibilities even without the oversight of a doctor.

Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work?
Nurse practitioners tend to work wherever RNs are found, but they have expanded duties such as making assessments, ordering diagnostic tests and in some cases, making diagnoses. Some NPs are even allowed to prescribe medications, but this may not be allowed in some areas. What an NP is allowed to do varies according to the jurisdiction and the legislation of a specific area.  They may work in hospitals, private clinics or in nursing homes.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
The first step towards becoming a nurse practitioner is to have qualifications and experience as a registered nurse. This means earning an associate or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution such as GW. Nurse practitioners often have some experience working in the field, although some people go right from earning a nursing certificate to enrolling in an NP program. A bachelors degree is a prerequisite for more advanced programs, and there is a clinical component.

Graduate Programs
Before enrolling in a graduate program, some institutions expect candidates to work in the field for a few years. However, other programs allow students to gain experience while earning the degree. Whether expertise in the field is gained through real-life work experience or clinical requirements, NPs must have a certain amount of knowledge gained through working in a clinical setting.
Some NPs go from working as nurses to gaining a masters degree or a Ph.D. in issues of administration, nursing education or medical ethics. A good place to start when deciding whether you want an advanced degree in nursing is to read an article about being a nurse practitioner.

Licenses and Certification
Having an advanced degree is important, but obtaining a license and certification is essential for the ability to work in your field. What kind of certification you earn depends on where you plan to work. In the United States, every state has its own requirements for nursing and list approved graduate programs. After earning your degree, you will need to take a national examination and achieve relevant certification. Periodically there are changes in these regulations, so it is important to stay aware of any alterations and make sure your certification is still current.

What Do Nursing Practitioners Study
People pursuing degrees to become nursing practitioners may take classes on the role of nursing and how to use clinical judgment. They may also learn about using research methods in the field of nursing and how to apply the research in clinical practice. Candidates may also learn pathophysiology and pharmacological concepts as well as safety and emergency care. The type of coursework varies according to the type of degree.

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