Nurse practitioner schools equip baccalaureate-trained nurses with advanced knowledge and clinical practice skills. Nurse practitioners provide direct patient care in a primary care setting while emphasizing quality relationships with patients, families, and communities. The requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner differ from state to state, but one must typically have a graduate degree in nursing, a registered nurse (RN) license, and a national certification as a nurse practitioner. Learn more about the process of becoming a nurse practitioner and what the career entails.
Nurse Practitioner Degree Options
Nurse practitioner programs are currently offered at both the master’s and doctoral level. However, by 2015, schools will be required to convert their master’s advanced practice nursing programs to doctoral programs in accordance with recommendations from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
Master’s degree programs can typically be completed in two to two and a half years, while doctoral programs can take from three to five years. In order to qualify for entrance to a nurse practitioner degree program, students must typically have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a minimum cumulative GPA, an RN license, professional and academic recommendations, and minimum GRE scores.
Coursework in Nurse Practitioner Programs
The curriculum of nurse practitioner programs builds upon students’ theoretical knowledge and clinical experience as nurses. Courses that students may be required to take include:
- Family nursing theory
- Primary healthcare concepts and practice
- Management of acute and chronic illnesses
- Advanced health assessment and measurement
- Clinical pharmacology
- Theory and practice of public health nursing
Clinical hours are also integrated into the curriculum. Many nurse practitioner degree programs are delivered online to accommodate the schedules and lifestyles of practicing nurses. Students in online programs may be required to visit campus at least once or twice per semester to meet with faculty and other students.
Although requirements vary by state, nurse practitioners must receive certification before securing employment. Areas of certification include family health, pediatrics, neonatology, gerontology, women’s health, psychiatry and mental health, acute care, adult health, oncology, and occupational health, among others.
Career Opportunities for Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioner degrees provide students with the skills needed to deliver community-based primary healthcare to individuals and families in a variety of settings. Nurse practitioners emphasize health promotion and the development of positive health behaviors and also play a role in educating patients and families.
Graduates are prepared to provide a full range of primary care from the ante partum period through to the adult lifespan. Nurse practitioner degree holders are employed in emergency rooms, local health departments, community-based health centers, private practices, managed care organizations, and more. Their duties may include the following:
- Diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases
- Taking a patient’s history
- Ordering lab tests and procedures
- Performing physical exams
- Performing specific medical procedures
Scope-of-practice laws for nurse practitioners vary from one state to another. Some nurse practitioners work with doctors as part of a healthcare team, while others work independently without doctor supervision. In 2012, the median annual wage of nurse practitioners was $89,960.
The demand for primary care services in the US is expected to grow over the next few years, owing to the aging population and the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). To increase the number of primary care providers, many healthcare facilities are turning to nurse practitioners. If you are currently an RN, you can transform your career and boost your income by enrolling in a nurse practitioner school. Begin researching your options today to start taking a more hands-on role in patient care.