A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse that has gone back to school and earned a master’s degree in nursing, with a specialization in a nurse practitioner field. As a nurse practitioner you will have skills and experience in diagnostic procedures and management of various diseases and illnesses. There are vast arrays of specialty options a nurse practitioner can choose to specialize in. Many nurse practitioners will begin seeing their patients during childhood and continue as their care provider throughout their adulthood. A popular position for nurse practitioners is working directly with family primary care physicians.
Nurse Practitioner Responsibilities
Some of the responsibilities of a nurse practitioner include interviewing patients, diagnosing illnesses and administering physical examinations as well as prescribing medications. The primary role of a nurse practitioner is to pay special attention to family dynamics and how an illness may affect the whole family. Nurse practitioners work with a multidisciplinary team, from pediatrics to geriatrics, to meet the patient’s needs. Nurse practitioners are trained for employment in a number of different settings including specialty care, primary care, community organizations, hospitals, government organizations and many other healthcare organizations.
The requirements for nurse practitioners vary from state to state, but the majority of states require you to have a minimum of a Master of Science degree in nursing. Before earning a master’s degree in nursing, you are required to previously have completed an accredited registered nursing program, have the proper licensure and be up to date in all continued education courses required to maintain certification and license. Depending on your previous level of education in nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program usually takes from one to three years. If you enter a program with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the program can usually be completed in two years. Online programs for nurse practitioner programs include online classes as well as direct clinical hours in a healthcare environment. There are several specialties you can pursue within a Master’s of Science in Nursing program such as women’s health, family health and midwifery.
Benefits of an Online Degree
For those already working in the nursing field, an online degree is the most beneficial option, because the program allows you to continue working, while doing class work anywhere you have an Internet connection. To earn a nurse practitioner online degree, the majority of classroom work is done online; however, there are some programs that require students to occasionally attend class in person, and you will have to complete approved clinical hours in an approved health-related environment.
Online courses for a nurse practitioner degree may include medical ethics, health promotion, economics, and politics in healthcare as well as research for your specialization. Many nurse practitioner online programs require you complete a thesis in order to graduate from the program, which will require a long period of time to gather the research and write the thesis. Online programs are very similar to the classroom where you attend in person, including the ability to have contact with an advisor to help you with scheduling classes and finding a suitable clinical site.
Online Coursework and Clinical Hours
You typically only need a computer and access to a high speed Internet connection in order to get your assignments and complete the coursework. The school you attend will typically provide you with a classroom platform, online tools, reference materials and an email account. There are usually message boards for discussions, and in some situations the assignments are submitted through a special website as opposed to through email.
Clinical hours are usually fulfilled at a local health facility near your home. In some situations you may be required to attend clinical courses at the school campus, but these are typically only one or two visits, and they usually last for two to three days. When you go to the campus for clinical courses, you will be able to participate in practical labs as well as simulated situations. The on-site clinical courses as well as the off-site clinical courses are typically done in the field you intend to specialize in.
After completing the nurse practitioner online program, you will need to obtain certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as well as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). In order to be eligible for certification, you must have a current and active RN license and either earned a Master’s or a Doctorate in a nurse practitioner program. The program you attended for the graduate degree must have included at least 500 hours of clinical practice as well as courses in pharmacology and advanced health assessment. The nurse practitioner certification is valid for five years and can be renewed by either retaking the exam or with the completion of 1000 hours of clinical practice and 75 hours of continuing education courses.
Employment Outcome and Salary
The outlook for a career as a nurse practitioner is in demand and expected to continue to rise. The employment projection for nurse practitioners is expected to increase as much as 13% before 2018. Many nurse practitioners have their own practice, and there are several nurse-managed health centers throughout the United States. The average salary for a nurse practitioner varies depending on the field of specialization, the region in which you are employed and the working conditions. Salary ranges are between $60,000 and $107,000, but the average salary for a nurse practitioner is about $75,000.