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Nurse Practitioner Introduction

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who can provide health care services that are similar to that of a physician. They have the ability to diagnose and treat health problems and provide a different approach from that of physicians. They treat patients by providing care that fulfills their emotional and physical needs. They can also focus on promoting health and wellness, prevention of disease, and patient health education as well as direct counseling if needed. They assist patients in selecting and offering them healthy lifestyle choices to promote wellness and improve overall well being. In this way, NPs act like patient advisors and help patients solve many different medical problems and concerns.

Nurse practitioners are one of four types of advanced practice nurses that provide care to patients. The advance practice nurse is a registered nurse who has a master’s degree. The nurse will graduate within a specialized field and usually get nationally certified within that specialty area. They often work alongside medical practices to provide thorough clinical care and complete the continuum of care in the health care process.

Nurse practitioners can provide care for acute and chronic diseases and can diagnosis, order laboratory and diagnostic testing, order medications, as well as provide and review test results. Nurse practitioners will continue to play a key role in providing health care for the future. Often called “physician extenders,” can improve the quality of care for patients and families alike.

Qualities of Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are essential to the implementation of the care of patients and families in communities today. The role of providing primary care to patients requires highly qualified and trained individuals. NPs provide patients with detailed care that is respected and contains patient education. NPs assess patients’ signs and symptoms, medications, history and physical condition and incorporates all of these things into his or her diagnosis and treatment plan.

What qualities would you want your nurse practitioner to possess? This person should be compassionate, able to prioritize the patient’s needs and medical condition(s). He or she should be flexible in order to adapt to numerous situations, from listening skills to providing hands-on care. Being an NP can be emotionally draining. Make sure you really love helping people – a career as an NP is more than learning certain technical information and facts. Nursing is about helping others. It is about being able to cope and thrive in difficult situations on a daily basis. If you don’t truly have a heart for helping others; you should probably consider a career in another field.

For some NPs, the most difficult thing about being an NP is respecting social boundaries, such as admitting when you are unable to help a patient get better, and following the many, many medical guidelines, such as medication prescribing. Comfort, care and being observant of the patient’s needs and desires are very important to the success of NPs and to maintaining the patient’s rights and providing care according to their standards.

Nurse Practitioner Zone

If you are deciding whether to become a nurse practitioner, ask yourself these key questions first: Am I the type of person who can listen to problems and concerns without being judgmental? Am I able to relate to persons from different cultures, lifestyles and age groups? Can I work well under pressure and provide friendly and cheerful care? Am I fit and able to stand for long periods on my feet?

Finally, after reviewing the qualities that a Nurse Practitioner needs to possess, you should have a clear picture of what is needed when delivering patient care. Proactive learning of new knowledge and new techniques in the medical industry is a top priority for NPs. When a patient is being taken care of by an NP, they must “prove” themselves initially to the patient. Patients are often critical when first approached by an NP as they often are wondering why they didn’t get to see a physician. This is where the NP’s interpersonal skills and communication can provide reassurance to the patient that they will receive complete and accurate care. NPs must be independent in delivering care to patients of all ages. This will increase patients’ acceptance of their care and open the lines of communication between patients and themselves. This is the key step that has to be taken by NPs in order to develop a lasting relationship with the patient and continue to develop their role within the practice of the field.

Advantages of Being a Nurse Practitioner

When considering a career as a nurse practitioner, one should keep in mind the many advantages of a career in this field. Registered nurses who are looking for a career that offers a stimulating practice environment, daily challenges, and a great degree of autonomy will find becoming a nurse practitioner very rewarding. Today, nurse practitioners are responsible for many duties that were once only provided by physicians. A few of these include: patient assessments, completion of medical histories, and diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases. Nurse practitioners are extensively trained on the anatomy and physiology of the human body and can order medical diagnostic testing and write prescriptions as necessary. Nurse practitioners can provide care that encompasses the whole patient continuum. Upon closer examination, we can start to understand some of the tasks performed by nurse practitioners and the additional advantages that this career can offer.

Disadvantages of Being a Nurse Practitioner

When considering a career as a nurse practitioner there are several disadvantages to consider. If you are not a “people person” who can handle the daily stress of problems and concerns of others, then this may not be the field for you. Imagine standing on your feet for hours a day and listening to others who are ill and who have issues that may not be entirely physical. If you do not have a strong desire to help and care for others then this may not be the field for you.

The extensive training can be involved, and first and foremost you must be a registered nurse with advanced training. This is not an associate degree program. This is not a bachelor degree program. All nurse practitioners have gone on to get their master’s degree and by 2015 the requirements are changing to require all programs to be doctorate degrees. The training is extensive, ranging from anatomy and physiology, medication prescribing, diagnosing, medical to diagnostic testing. The education needed to succeed in this field is not one to take lightly. These individuals are highly specialized in their training and offer a great amount of knowledge to their patients.

The stresses and responsibilities that nurse practitioners experience are great. Nurse practitioners have the total autonomy to order testing, prescribe medications and diagnose patient diseases. They are able to practice alone in many states, which can offer great independence, but this also places the total responsibility on them alone. If you think that the legal implications and issues are not top priority for the NP, think again. The issue of malpractice has caused numerous concerns for the medical field in general, but the nurse practitioner and physician take the brunt of these lawsuits. The laws and guidelines are dictated by the state that the nurse is practicing in. This will vary by state, and the nurse needs to follow the practice guidelines in order to ensure that he or she is following the laws that are set.

The lifestyle of nurse practitioners is often long hours in the office and on-call hours that like of a physician. The practitioner will have to follow all orders of the medical practice, hospital, medical facility, community health clinic or independent practice that were agree upon when hired. The long hours may prove to be difficult to balance with family time, social events and overall daily stress.

Specialization Areas as an NP

Nurse practitioners have the option to provide care and specialize in many different areas. This gives nurse practitioners great autonomy to grow in the field of their choice. This independence provides nurse practitioners numerous opportunities to choose the specialty of their liking. The following are some of the various areas that one can decide to specialize:

Adult and Family Nurse Practitioners will provide primary nursing and medical care to individuals and families with a focus on disease prevention and health care maintenance. They can diagnose and take care of patients with acute and chronic disease states. Adult and family nurse practitioners work in many settings, including: outpatient clinics, ambulatory care settings, health centers and outreach centers throughout the community. They provide follow-up care and continue to expand their scope of care due, in part, to the growing shortage of family practice physicians.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia. CRNAs practice in many settings where anesthesia is available and are the sole anesthesia providers in more than two-thirds of all rural hospitals. They can administer every type of anesthetic and provide care for all surgeries and procedures, from coronary artery bypass grafting, dermatologic procedures, orthopedic, to cataract and pain management. They often work to assist with pain management clinics to manage patients with chronic pain. This field is dynamic and provides numerous opportunities for the CRNA.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners provide pediatric health care to well and ill infants, children and adolescents. The pediatric nurse practitioner provides health care maintenance for children, which involves well examinations, routine developmental screenings, and diagnosing common childhood illnesses and ordering treatments. They provide guidance to the parents of the newborn to teen and can offer an extensive array of services in many practice areas. This is a growing field and one that can provide great satisfaction for the person who loves to interact and care for children.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners provide and specialize in the advanced practice of the care of newborns with a variety of conditions. The treatment offered in the hospital setting in neonatal intensive care units can involve premature infants, respiratory distress, acute and chronic renal failure, sepsis, and other disorders that require surgical intervention. The neonatal nurse practitioner will manage neonatal patients using the extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology and pharmacology. This knowledge provides them with the independence to assess, diagnose and delegate medical testing and procedures.

Nurse-Midwifery Practitioners provide primary as well as specialized care to antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum. Today, nurse-midwives provide care in hospitals, birthing centers, private practices and in home settings. More mothers are seeking alternatives to the traditional Western-medicine birthing experience, which often means a nurse-midwife is sought. The nurse midwife also provides family planning and birth control counseling services and gynecological screening services such as physical and breast exams, pap smears and preventative health screenings. In most states the nurse-midwife can prescribe medications.
Gerontological Nurse Practitioners (GNP) provide primary health care for older adults in a wide variety of practice settings. They can manage acute and chronic diseases and diagnose medical conditions. Because of the ever-growing elderly population, the demand for GNPs has increased.

Job security for nurse practitioners is stable. According to the 2010 National Salary Survey conducted by Advance, the salary rate can vary from $80,000 to $110,000. For those in search of a position in this field, keep in mind that the ability to travel and relocate to many areas of the country are good attributes to possess. Practice specialty and practice setting play an important role in the salary of nurse practitioners, and the overall job outlook for future and current nurses is excellent.

Nurse Practitioner Certification

Nurse practitioner certification entitles a select few registered nurses (RNs), who have obtained advanced education and clinical experience to carry out responsibilities that were once solely held by physicians. These nurses are allowed to used the designation Nurse Practitioner, or NP.

If you are interested in a career as a NP, you will need to find out how to become certified in the state where you want to work. Obtaining your NP certification will increase your earning potential and give you a competitive edge when you’re seeking new career opportunities.

In 2010, there were approximately 135,000 NPs working in the United States. In order to become an NP, you first needed to become certified. Every state has a different set of guidelines for certification. Generally, at least one exam provided by a national certifying organization is required, and you must also have accrued a certain number of hours of work experience. In addition, you will need to earn at least a master’s degree in your area of specialty. Every state requires that a nurse practitioner first be licensed as an RN and then take additional advanced nursing coursework.

The most widely recognized national certifications for NPs are offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Nurse practitioners must be licensed for general NP, as practiced by their state. They must also be certified nationally in a specialized NP field, usually through either the ANCC or the AANP.

In order to specialize in a medical field, you may need to take a specific exam for that field. For example, if you want to work in pediatrics, you may need to take the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Exam, offered by the ANCC, or the Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP®-PC) Examination, offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). If you want to be certified as a family NP, you probably will need to take the Family Nurse Practitioner Exam, which is offered by the AANP and the ANCC. Other specialized areas, such as women’s health, acute care, and psychiatric and mental health care, also generally require specialized examinations.

The certification to be an NP shows that you are professionally competent to work in your field. Governing boards, the military, and insurance companies all recognize accredited nurse practitioner certification.

Nurse Practitioner Certification Requirements by State

Last Updated: 05/19/2014

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