What Is A Nurse Practitioner?

The airwaves are chock full of discussions about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. This law has certainly generated a lot of debate. While there is still a lot to sort out with the various insurance policies, one thing is for sure; there will be a lot more people entering into the healthcare system. As a result, the demand for qualified nurse practitioners (NPs) will be even higher.

On many levels, the nurse practitioner fills the gap between a registered nurse and a doctor. Often doctors will depend on NPs to assist with their patient loads. The nurse practitioner serves as a conduit between the doctor and the patient. This puts the NP on the front line of providing quality health care. Keep in mind that this is not a career that you can jump into with a few training courses and quick certifications. It is a degree career that requires a serious academic commitment. In other words, you would have to take your medical training beyond everything you would learn to become a RN and that means more clinical hours.The

Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner

The list of responsibilities that a nurse practitioner can handle resemble that of a doctor.  These include the following:

  • Conduct physical exams.
  • Diagnose acute illnesses.
  • Treat common injuries.
  • Administer immunizations.
  • Direct hypertension care.
  • Help manage diabetes, depression and other forms of chronic illnesses.
  • Interpret X-rays, EKGs and lab tests.
  • Prescribe medication.
  • Offer counsel to patients pertaining to health style choices and wellness.

Where the Nurse Practitioner Works

You’ll find work as a nurse practitioner alongside other healthcare professionals at hospitals, private practices and clinics. The NP can also provide care on school and college campuses, in rural areas and at worksites that include health centers. Outside of working directly with patients, a nurse practitioner can also take on research or teaching duties. There are many nurse practitioners that set up their own private practices.

As you might expect, the hours of work for a nurse practitioner can vary depending on the situation. In a private practice the hours will be more stables whereas in a hospital the NP could find themselves on call and working holidays.

Education Required For a NP

As mentioned, the nurse practitioner goes beyond the basic training of a registered nurse. Their advanced coursework not only includes clinical hours adapting the nursing model but also the medical model. Among the courses that a NP could take are physical assessment, differential diagnosis, health policy, chronic disease management and specialties in women’s health, child care and geriatrics. The pathway to becoming a NP starts with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This is a four year program. That is followed by a Master’s of Science in Nursing which is an additional three years. The end result of these studies will be the ability to apply for a position in nearly any part of the country.

Job Security

Like doctors, nurse practitioners can specialize in various fields from pediatric to geriatric care. The job requires dedication and a desire to help those in need. This is a very rewarding career for anyone interested in healthcare and who can embrace the academic challenges. It is also a career that can come with a lot of job security, good salary and of course, health benefits.