A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse. To become an RN you must complete either a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing. In addition, in order to be a nurse practitioner, you earn a master's degree in nursing. Most nurse practitioners spend four years studying for their bachelor's degree, then one to two years studying to receive their advanced degree. Nurses are licensed by the state in which they practice. To receive your nursing license, you must pass a national exam, known as the National Council Licensure Examination, often referred to as the NCLEX-RN.
The outlook for jobs for nurse practitioners is bright, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse practitioners supplement physician care in under-served areas, such as inner cities and rural towns. With a shortage of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners can step in to fill the gap in some areas. To be a nurse practitioner you must have advanced education and training.
As part of your undergraduate work to obtain your nursing degree, you will complete supervised clinical training in a hospital or clinic setting. You will practice providing basic care and interacting with patients, interpreting lab results and some duties of a physician. Nurse practitioner training requires more time in a clinical setting, under the supervision of a doctor. Nurse practitioners who specialize in a particular field, such as a nurse midwife or pediatric nurse practitioner, will spend more time working in these fields during graduate training. To be certified in a particular specialty, such a pediatrics, a nurse practitioner must pass additional certification exams.
Nurse practitioners see patients for routine illnesses and follow-up care. In 49 states, nurse practitioners can prescribe medication and authorize prescription refills. Nurse practitioners order lab tests and X-rays and provide treatment just like a doctor. They may work independently or under the supervision of a physician, depending on the requirements of the state in which they practice. Some people see a nurse practitioner instead of a physician. Specialized nurse practitioners work in a variety of areas such as midwifes delivering babies, women's health care, geriatric care or pediatric care.
To maintain their licensure, nurse practitioners must complete continuing education each year. Each state has different requirements for continuing education. Organizations that certify nurse practitioners also have varied requirements, depending on the nurse practitioner's specialty. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners requires 75 hours of continuing education. This may be a combination of online, self-study and classroom hours.
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