Nurse Practitioner
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Nurse Practitioner: Role, Responsibilities, Salary, and Requirements

Nurse practitioners are healthcare professionals that are currently enjoying a very high demand in today’s healthcare industry for lots of different reasons. As fewer numbers of medical students are choosing to study primary care at medical school, primary care that is led by nurse practitioners rather than doctors is becoming more and more commonplace. Family nurse practitioner is a role that many registered nurses are aspiring to these days as this job has many different benefits. Not only do nurse practitioners enjoy a more generous salary, but they also have full practice authority in the majority of US states, allowing them to open and run their own practices without having to wait for a doctor to sign off on their decisions when diagnosing, prescribing, and referring their patients to treatment. For nurses who might not quite have made the cut when it came to attending medical school, working as a nurse practitioner can be the next best thing. And, nurse practitioner care is popular among patients, with studies finding that patients under the care of these advanced practice registered nurses tend to be more satisfied due to the more holistic care that they receive. You can always look up the salary for travel nurses around your area.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse. To work as a nurse practitioner, you will first need to gain a BSN and then get on-the-job experience as a registered nurse before getting an advanced nursing degree such as an MSN or DNP. In some cases, nurse practitioners may also get a postgraduate certificate that is designed to provide them with the skills and knowledge that they need to work in a nurse practitioner role in the future in their chosen area of specialty. This FNP Certificate Program is designed for MSN-educated nurses who want to work as a nurse practitioner in the future and involves a curriculum that provides the advanced level of training needed to work in this highly trusted, highly autonomous nursing role. 

Nurse practitioners are often afforded the ability to make decisions at the same level as a primary care physician, including giving diagnoses to patients and prescribing the appropriate medication without the need for supervision. Family nurse practitioners treat a range of patients of all ages and with a wide range of health complaints and conditions, while other nurse practitioners study to focus on a certain disease or patient population, such as mental health, adult gerontology, pediatrics, or neonatal. 

Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

Nurse practitioners will usually take on quite a lot more responsibility in comparison to a registered nurse. This is especially true in more than twenty states where nurse practitioners have full practice authority and can run or manage their own practices without the need for there to be a primary care physician on site. Unlike registered nurses, this allows nurse practitioners to work alone and even start their own healthcare businesses and clinics providing care to patients that fall under their area of specialization. Along with running their own clinics, nurse practitioners are needed to work in all other areas of healthcare including in hospitals, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices, retail clinics, and urgent care centers to name a few. 

What is the Nurse Practitioner Salary?

Nurse practitioners tend to earn a significantly higher salary compared to registered nurses. In fact, data from the US Bureau of Statistics suggests that once qualified as a nurse practitioner, registered nurses can expect their salary to rise by around thirty thousand dollars more per year. In the US, the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner is around between $110-120k, although this can vary a lot depending on several factors including the state and the nurse practitioner’s specialty area. Neonatal nurse practitioners are very advanced professionals who tend to earn more in comparison to other types compared to the highly specialized nature of this role. 

What Skills Do Nurse Practitioners Need?

Whether you want to work as a family nurse practitioner or are interested in exploring more of an area that you have enjoyed working in the most as a registered nurse such as pediatric nursing or psychiatric mental health nursing, nurse practitioners need a solid and specific skill-set in order to succeed in this role. Along with the medical skills and knowledge required to take on so much responsibility and work at this advanced level of nursing, nurse practitioners are also required to have a set of transferable skills that you will have likely already been able to develop during your time working as a nurse. To be a better nurse practitioner in the future, nurses are wise to work on further developing the following skills:

Communication

In any nursing role, communication skills are paramount. Nurses are always communicating with somebody whether that’s patients, colleagues, managers or even policy makers. In the role of a nurse practitioner, communication with patients in particular becomes even more important as nurse practitioners will prescribe medications and set out treatment plans for patients to follow. One of the main roles in this job is to provide advice and counseling regarding health to patients, and good communication skills are needed to ensure that patients are able to clearly understand and follow the information that they have been provided with. 

Listening

Good listening skills are essential for nurses at every level. However, for nurse practitioners, the ability to really listen to their patients is even more important as the information that they are given may be necessary to providing a treatment plan, medication, or a diagnosis. Nurse practitioners around the country are taking over from primary care physicians to fill the gaps left by the shortage, which means that they are often working one-to-one with patients to find out more about what is troubling them and put together the best solution for their health. 

Critical Thinking

Nurse practitioners will often find themselves working in positions of authority, which means making good decisions. And to make the best decisions, a nurse practitioner will need to be able to think critically. Critical thinking skills are essential for nurse practitioners in many different areas of the job, particularly when it comes to making important decisions on behalf of their patients. 

Empathy

Another essential transferrable skill for nurses to possess at every level is empathy. Empathy is a quality that some people naturally have more of than others, but almost anybody can learn to display it in their line of work. Nurse practitioners need to demonstrate a lot of empathy towards their patients in particular, and this role is often a good fit for registered nurses who have mastered the art of being able to imagine how their patient must be feeling by putting themselves in their shoes. Nurse practitioners, particularly family nurse practitioners, may be the first health professional that a patient speaks to when they are concerned for their health or suffering worrying symptoms. Along with empathy, nurse practitioners should also have a healthy dose of compassion for their patients and a genuine desire to help others. 

Attention to Detail

Being very detail-oriented is a skill that is going to work in your favor as a nurse practitioner. If you are a registered nurse right now, it’s a good idea to start working on improving your skills in the area of detail-orientation as early as possible. All nurses need to have good attention to detail as sometimes it is the smallest of details that can have the biggest impact in the healthcare field. For example, giving a patient just the smallest amount of the wrong dose of medication could have a disastrous effect in some cases. On the other hand, being able to notice small changes in your patients could help you get them the treatment that they need and may even save their life in some cases. Nurse practitioners are trusted to work alone, which means that they need to be even more observant. 

Adaptability

A nurse practitioner needs to be somebody who is willing to learn and adapt to the inevitable changes that are going to come up over the course of their career. Nursing and healthcare in general is a field that is always changing with new research leading to different changes and improvements all the time. For example, recent studies have found that just 10% more BSN-educated nurses in the workforce can have a very positive impact on patient outcomes, which has led to more employers seeking nurses with a BSN as a minimum and even new laws in New York State that require all nurses to get a BSN within ten years of becoming a registered nurse. Nurse practitioners need to be able to adapt to new laws, regulations, equipment, treatments, and even new diseases, like COVID-19, which didn’t exist three years ago. Changes in the healthcare system are usually done for a very good reason, and typically implemented when research proves it will be beneficial for either patients or healthcare staff. Because of this, nurse practitioners who are working at the forefront of modern healthcare should not only be ready to adapt to these changes, but also encourage and support them. 

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If learning more about the role of a nurse practitioner has gotten your interest, then you might be wondering which steps you will need to take to work in this role. The steps you will need to take to become a nurse practitioner will depend on where you currently are in your nursing career. If you are already a registered nurse, you may be eligible to start training as a nurse practitioner right away as long as you have a BSN and relevant experience. If you’re not yet a nurse, then you’ll need to gain a BSN and some years of experience working as a registered nurse before you can take the next step in your career and become a nurse practitioner. 

Get a BSN

The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to qualify as a registered nurse if you have not done this already. The best way to do this is with a BSN. Although the BSN does take longer to complete and is generally more expensive compared to an associate degree, it is the better choice for many reasons. Importantly, the majority of MSN programs will only consider applicants who have a BSN, so even if you get into nursing with an ADN, you will usually be required to return to school later on to get your BSN before you get take the next steps towards a nurse practitioner role. 

Get Experience

Since working as a nurse practitioner is such an advanced nursing role that requires you to have a very high knowledge of medical procedures, diseases, anatomy and treatment options, most roles do not hire nurses that do not have any previous experience. Once you have gained a BSN, you can go straight into getting an MSN; however, you may struggle to find work as a nurse practitioner after graduating if you don’t have a lot of experience to prove your competency as a nurse. It is best to work as a registered nurse for several years before taking the next step. Not only will this improve your knowledge and skills, but it also gives you the chance to explore different areas of healthcare and decide which ones you are interested in the most. 

Get an MSN

Finally, an MSN is usually the minimum requirement for nurse practitioners. You can get a general MSN degree program or opt for an MSN program that is tailored to nurse practitioner training. Another option to consider is to complete your MSN and then take an additional certificate afterwards designed to prepare you for your chosen nurse practitioner role. With this role growing in popularity, there are now lots of different online degree options available that make it easier to fit studying around working full-time as a registered nurse. 

With fewer medical students going into primary care and undeniable benefits of nurse practitioners for patients, there has never been a better time than right now for registered nurses to consider taking the next step towards this advanced practice career path. 

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