Nurse Practitioner Job Description

A Nurse Practitioner’s Career

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Nurse Practitioner Job Description

The Nurse Practitioner Will See You Now—Doug McIntosh (Flickr.com)

A nurse practitioner is a nurse with an advanced degree in medicine. While the term “nurse” covers a wide variety of duties in almost every medical setting, the role of a nurse practitioner is far more specific. They are the most educated in the field of nursing, and in many cases they will take the place of a physician in diagnosing and treating patients.

The nurse practitioner’s career was created in the 1960s and is based around a nursing model that is focused on holistic patient care – meaning care focused on healing the whole person. Nurse practitioners will perform a variety of basic medical procedures including suturing and even minor surgery. In many cases, nurse practitioners are even able to write prescriptions and order tests.

The Nurse Practitioner’s Job Outlook

Advanced practice nurses in all four categories (nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists) are experiencing rapidly increasing job opportunities. Physicians are generally in extremely high demand, and thus they depend greatly on the services of support staff like nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners will work directly under the physician and can perform many of the same procedures and services. This allows the doctor to see more patients and provide a greater scope of care for those who need medical attention.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in all fields and specialties are in high demand – particularly in rural and inner city areas that are typically short on medical service. Healthcare costs are continuing to increase, and healthcare providers are struggling to find cost-effective ways to meet the ongoing need. Since nurse practitioners provide a lower-cost option for medical care, they are experiencing a boom in employment opportunities as hospitals, outpatient care centers and physicians’ offices struggle to keep up with the demand for care. The BLS has predicted an overall growth of 22 percent across the broad scope of nursing jobs.

A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner’s day will vary greatly depending on their particular field and the type of office they work in. Most nurse practitioners will work in primary care, oncology, psychiatric care, pediatrics, or geriatrics. In some instances (though less commonly) a nurse practitioner will go into a subspecialty like cardiovascular care, emergency care, gastroenterology, hematology, orthopedics, allergy and immunology, pulmonary and respiratory, neurology, or urology.

Though some duties and responsibilities will be common to all nurse practitioners, most will vary according to the nurse’s specialty field. As mentioned above, the most common specialties include:

– Primary Care – in which a nurse practitioner will provide general care in a family hospital or clinic. Their work will involve preventative care, check-ups, treating minor illnesses, ordering lab tests, and prescribing medications for patients.

– Oncology – in which the nurse practitioner will work exclusively with cancer patients. After a patient has been diagnosed and a treatment regimen is set in place, the oncology nurse practitioner will be responsible for monitoring and recording the patient’s progress.

– Psychiatric Care – in which the nurse practitioner will often act as a therapist. NPs in this field often hold a Ph.D. and while they are not qualified to perform psychological testing, they will work closely with psychiatrists and psychologists to review test results and monitor patients’ progress. They are generally authorized to prescribe appropriate medications to patients in their care.

– Pediatric Care – in which nurse practitioners will work exclusively with children and teenagers. Some will focus on caring for older children up to age 18, while others will work exclusively with babies. Most pediatric NPs will work closely with pediatric doctors in children’s hospital wards; some, however, do maintain their own patients and are solely responsible for decisions regarding care and treatment.

– Geriatric Care – in which a nurse practitioner will be involved with the care, counseling and treatment of elderly patients. Geriatric care nurse practitioners will typically collaborate with doctors in determining appropriate treatments, and will then follow up with the patient to monitor his progress.

In all cases, however, the nurse practitioner’s duties will be centered around the various elements of patient care. They will conduct physical examinations to provide preventative care, as well as for the diagnosis of an illness or injury. They will perform basic medical procedures and minor surgeries. The nurse practitioner is generally qualified to prescribe medications and has the authority to order any needed lab work, including MRIs, CAT scans, X-Rays, and blood work.

Some states allow a nurse practitioner to run their own private practice. In most cases though, nurse practitioners are required to work with a doctor in an established hospital or physician’s office. While the NP will generally work independently, the primary physician is usually on the premises or just a phone call away. If a problem arises with a patient or the nurse practitioner is unsure how to proceed with a particular illness or injury, the doctor will be consulted for guidance or assistance.

Some Handy Skills

While nurse practitioners perform many of the same services as a physician, they are also highly involved in the ongoing care of their patients. This requires them to be highly service oriented. They must be actively looking for ways to help people and often need to be very sensitive to potential problems. They may not always need to solve the problem, but they must be able to recognize the potential.

They will also need very strong communication skills – both spoken and written – in order to accurately convey and understand information. They will need to listen closely to doctors and patients and base their decision on the information received. They will need strong logical skills as they analyze the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.

Finally, they will obviously need a strong knowledge of the techniques and information needed to diagnose and treat injuries and disease. They will need a solid understanding of symptoms and treatments and a good education in the fields of biology and chemistry.

Related Resources:

Wikipedia Nurse Practitioner

Mayo Clinic Nurse Practitioner