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Top Nurse Practitioner Careers
- A Guide to Nurse Practitioner Scholarships and Grants
- All About the Nurse Practitioner Career
- Health is Wealth: Top 100 Sites for Healthy Living
- Insider’s Look Into the Nurse Practitioner Profession With Cristina Yasuko Matsumoto, WHNP-BC
- Nurse Practitioner Program Rankings – The Ultimate Guide
- Nurse Practitioner Programs: What Are Your Options?
- Nurse Practitioner Reading List
- Nurse Practitioner Work: What You Need to Know
- Snapshot of a Nurse Practitioner: Cristina Yasuko Matsumoto
All About the Nurse Practitioner Career
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse, likely with a master’s degree or beyond, who provides primary care services or specialized medical evaluation and treatment to a certain demographic of patients. NPs need a master’s degree because of the added responsibilities and privileges conferred upon them when they earn their nursing license. NPs can open up a family practice, and some can even prescribe medication, though this requires extra education and government certification.
There Are Many Categories of Nurse Practitioner
Though there are general tasks that most nurses will have to do regularly in their careers, daily routines can vary widely from nurse to nurse. Nurses in the following specialties see patients in very different circumstances:
- Family Practice: Providing general primary care to families is a common choice for nurse practitioners. This entails doing regular checkups as well as treating acute and chronic illness and injury. Family nurse practitioners may work in the private practice of an MD, or may open their own private practices.
- Midwifery: A nurse midwife is a type of advanced practice nurse who works mostly with pregnant women. Nurse midwives help mothers stay healthy during pregnancy, and are often present to assist with the birth of the child.
- Anesthesiology: Nurses who specialize in anesthesiology usually work with an MD to provide the proper anesthetic for patients who undergo surgery.
- Clinical Nursing Specialty: Clinical nurse specialists work not only to improve the health of patients, but to improve the efficiency of the nursing system itself. A CNS’s job includes examining the workflows of the facility where they are employed, and suggesting changes in methodology to improve the quality of care and the number of patients that can be treated.
All of the above are career options for nurses with master’s degrees that will be much more difficult to pursue for RNs with only a bachelor’s degree or less.
Nurse Practitioner Education Programs
The programs that prepare students to get licensed as nurse practitioners vary from school to school, and the content of the courses depends heavily on which specialty each individual student chooses, but there are a few core nursing principles that are baked into any good, accredited nurse practitioner degree program. Some of the courses you’ll likely see in any nurse practitioner curriculum include:
- Patient/Provider Relationships and Communication: NPs providing primary care to patients who return regularly need to be good at managing relationships and understanding the communication styles of a large cohort of patients. A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed patient/provider communication as one of the most important subjects of study in nurse practitioner programs.
- Primary Care: The NIH study mentioned above also mentioned the importance of primary care education for nurse practitioners as well. Since NPs provide primary care in some places where MDs are not as accessible or affordable, their ability to meet the medical needs of a diverse community is crucial.
- Electronic Information Systems: The whole medical industry has been making the somewhat painful transition from paper records to electronic ones over the past decade, and anyone working in a medical facility now needs to know how to safely store and transmit medical records electronically while keeping them private.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
An RN who wants to be a nurse practitioner will typically work in a hospital for a few years immediately after earning their bachelor’s degree and nursing license, and then start looking around for master’s programs in the nursing fields they are most interested in.
Nurse practitioner programs usually include some hours of clinical practice, and getting this experience at a high-quality, recognizable hospital or clinic can be a good way to make a name for yourself in the profession. Ultimately, though, all of the clinical practice and classroom hours are aimed at making you a qualified medical professional who can safely treat patients and earn and maintain a license.
After finishing school and earning a license, finding a job as a nurse practitioner shouldn’t be too difficult. There has been a media frenzy about nursing shortages over the past few years, and The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many states have ample employment opportunities and generous salaries for nurses in all capacities.
Further Growth Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners have a lot of career mobility. They are in demand in most parts of the U.S., and even internationally, and can practice independently or be employed by a hospital or private clinic. Since all nurses are required to take continuing education classes, there are always opportunities for nurses to learn new skills or point their career in a new direction. For NPs this is doubly true, because their master’s degree allows them to practice in ways that general RNs cannot. All of these factors add to the flexibility of a career as a nurse practitioner.
The longer that you work as an RN or NP, the more chances that you’ll have to find new job opportunities and make professional and social connections. The highest number of nurses with full time employment fall in the 45-54 age bracket. The graph below, from the Health Resources and Services Administration, shows the distribution of employed nurses at various levels of education.
Nurse Practitioner Salaries, Benefits, and Other Job Data
NPs are in high demand now, and as highly educated medical professionals, they can earn great salaries under the right circumstances. Three factors that can influence the salary of an NP are:
- Geographic Location (Country, State, City)
- Type of Facility
- Years of Experience
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average annual salary of RNs in the U.S. at $69,110, but the national average doesn’t necessarily predict what an NP earns in any given location. Metropolitan areas tend to have better salaries for NPs, but also higher competition for employment. Hospitals may pay differently than private family practices, and naturally, an NP with years of experience will earn more than one right out of school.
The “Nursing Shortage” and What it Means for Student NPs
There has a been a lot of media buzz over the past few years about nurse shortages in various areas of the country due to an aging nurse workforce and increasing treatment needs overall. This coverage has been overblown in many respects, but there are elements of truth in it. Many nurses are retiring, or will retire in the coming decade, and that adds demand to the already high need for new nurses.
Data gathered by The BLS shows that the nursing industry is poised to see 26 percent job growth by 2020, which is about 10 percent faster than average job growth across other industries in the U.S.
To encourage new students to enter the nursing field and offset the shortage, the U.S. government offers many scholarships and loan-forgiveness-for-service programs for healthcare workers, especially those working in Health Practitioner Shortage Areas (HPSAs), which are tracked by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Student NPs can take advantage of special scholarships available to them in addition to the regular financial aid offered to all students by the U.S. government, making it easier than ever to pay for a nursing education. Even students who have to take on some debt to finish nursing school will likely earn enough to pay off their loans quickly, as nursing salaries are only going up as demand for new nurses increases.
Deciding Which Nurse Practitioner Programs to Apply For
Choosing a nurse practitioner program, and getting the right mix of online courses, in-person instruction, and clinical practice hours, can make the difference between enjoying school and struggling to finish. Important factors to consider when weighing programs are:
- Accreditation Status: No nurse with a degree from an unaccredited school will be offered a license to practice nursing anywhere in the U.S. Accreditation is a crucial way for nursing schools to prove that they provide high-caliber education. Unaccredited schools have nothing to offer.
- Cost vs Potential Salary: Look at the median annual salary for RNs in the area where you want to live, and look at the cost of the programs you might apply to. Make an estimate of how much debt you’ll have to acquire, and how long it will take to pay off with your expected salary. Is it worth it for you?
- Schedule Flexibility: If you’ve got other responsibilities in life aside from school, you probably don’t want to drop everything to finish your degree. You need balance, and finding that can be hard, but a combination of online college and courses at a local community college or four-year institution can provide the right blend for you. It will take some searching, but there are a lot of flexible scheduling options for nurse practitioner programs.
The schools linked to on this site are all accredited, and offer a variety of nursing programs both online and on campus.
The Best Online Nurse Practitioners Degrees
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who provides primary and specialty care to patients. A nurse practitioner is responsible for administering both nursing and wider healthcare services; and, they are licensed to prescribe medications. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires the completion of a master's degree program. Below are the most popular colleges offering online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees.
MSN: Nurse Practitioners
RN to MSN
MSN: Nurse Administration
MSN: Nurse Education
MSN: Nurse Informatics
|Kaplan University - The Kaplan University MSN for Nurse Practitioners and RN to MSN programs offers students the opportunity to explore nursing methods in a dynamic healthcare environment. Courses include Advanced Nursing Roles, Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing, and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Diverse Community. MSN specializations are offered in nurse administration, nurse education, and nurse informatics.|
MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner
RN to MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner
|Simmons College - For students who want to advance their careers and quickly accomplish life goals, Simmons College offers two degrees to help students become nurse practitioners. The first allows students to specialize as Family Nurse Practitioner while the second program is an accelerated option for registered nurses interested in family nurse practice. Both degrees are accredited and through online courses, they can be accomplished in two years.|
MSN to DNP: Nursing Leadership
||Bradley University - Bradley University confers an MSN to DNP in Nurse Leadership degree that allows for customization in non-nursing specialties, including disaster management, accouting, finance, organizational behavior, and more. Graduates of this program typically enter careers as nurse educators, nurse executives, health case managers, or managed care consultants, to name a few.|
Doctor of Nursing Practice
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology NP
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP
|Walden University - The Walden University Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program offers study in the advanced methods of practicing nursing throughout the healthcare industry. Registered nurses with bachelors in nursing are able to obtain their diploma in an accelerated format. Students can also specialize in various aspects of nursing, including Adult Gerontology, Adult Gerontology Acute Care, and Nurse Leadership.|
MSN: Midwifery and Women's Health
||Georgetown University - Graduates of the Georgetown University online MS of Nursing in Midwifery and Women's Health will have more than just a degree to their name upon completion. Students will have the skill and knowledge to help advance their profession, and medicine as a whole, while serving as sponsors of the well-being and overall health of each of their patients.|
MSN: Nurse Leadership
MSN/MBA: Nurse Leadership
|Grand Canyon University - The Grand Canyon University College of Nursing and Health Sciences provides students with a variety of master's programs tailored to meet the students specific interests. Specializations include Education, Leadership in Health Care Systems (also available as an MBA).|
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