Nurse Practitioner Training and Education

Training to Become a Nurse Practitioner

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Nurse Practitioner Training and Education

Nursing Class 2006—timefornurses (Flickr.com)

Nurse practitioners are among the most highly educated in the field of nursing. They perform many similar duties to full-fledged physicians, and their education reflects that. NPs will diagnose and treat patients, providing routine check-ups, prescribing appropriate medications, and even putting in sutures and performing minor surgeries.

Nurse practitioners in most states are required to work under a physician even though most work largely independent of a doctor’s direction or oversight. In some states nurse practitioners are allowed to practice on their own and some do open private practices.

The Skinny on Nurse Practitioner Training

A nurse practitioner is required to achieve at least a master’s degree level of education before practicing medicine. Further specific requirements will vary slightly depending on the NP’s chosen specialty or subspecialty. Nurse practitioners may choose to go into a specific care specialty aside from general family practice, including pediatric care, geriatric care, neonatal care, women’s health, and occupational health.

Starting Early

If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career as a nurse practitioner, there are steps you can take to prepare for your ongoing studies. Taking advanced placement courses in mathematics, biology and chemistry will give you a solid foundation to build on as you get ready to launch into your degree.

Undergraduate Degree

Every nurse practitioner begins their journey by first becoming a registered nurse. A student starts off by earning a nursing diploma or completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. From there, they are required to pass the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses. This provides them with their nursing license.

While studying to become registered nurses, aspiring NPs will learn all about vital nursing concepts as well as anatomy and physiology. Additional courses may include subjects like microbiology, pharmacology and psychology. In some cases, nurses will take laboratory courses which familiarize them with important procedures and instruments. A nursing course will wrap up with an internship, giving students the opportunity to practice in a hands-on setting with medical professionals.

Master’s Degree

In order to become a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse must go on to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). A degree like this will typically require 2 to 3 years to complete. The course focuses on providing aspiring nurse practitioners with the skills they will need in more advanced health care settings. The master’s degree program will typically include courses like:

– Pharmacology

– Pathophysiology

– Health Promotion

– Nursing Theories

– Health Assessment

– Advanced Practical Nursing

In addition, nurses will gain enhanced knowledge, understanding and skill in diagnosing and treating patients. Master’s degree programs will usually include clinical experience in a healthcare facility. This will give aspiring nurse practitioners the opportunity to put their skills to use in a real-world setting before going into full-time practice.

Most MSN programs will include opportunities for specialization. Nurse practitioners who choose to branch into a specific field like pediatric, geriatric or family care will focus on additional studies to prepare them for their chosen specialty or subspecialty.

Doctorate Degree

Once a student has earned their master’s degree in nursing, they are eligible for licensing and can enter the profession as full-fledged nurse practitioners. Some, however, may opt to take their education further to complete a doctoral degree program. Furthering their education in this way may greatly broaden employment opportunities, and will definitely expand their range of expertise and skill.

A doctoral degree program will provide nurse practitioners with the advanced practices needed to meet a wider range of patient needs. A graduate of a doctoral degree program may also be qualified to become a teacher of nursing. Courses in a doctoral degree program typically include:

– Leadership and Collaboration Skills

– Population Health

– Behavior Complexity

– Ethical Issues

– Illness Management

– Gerontology

– Health Policy

– Advanced Clinical Genomics

Credentialing

Once a nurse has earned her master’s or doctorate degree, she is eligible for professional certification as a nurse practitioner. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center both offer a number of certifications for nurse practitioners. Since nurse practitioner programs typically focus on a specialty field of nursing, graduates will typically choose to become certified in their chosen specialty or subspecialty.

These are not required for nurses before they can practice as nurse practitioners; however, credentialing with one of these recognized organizations can provide a higher level of credibility and may also provide the potential for higher salaries in the future. Credentialing with an organization of registered nurse practitioners also links nurses up to a strong support base and provides great opportunities for growth and further educations.

Once a nurse practitioner has earned one or more certifications in her chosen specialty fields, she will need to renew those certifications every five years. To renew her credentials, a nurse practitioner will be required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits throughout that period of years. NPs may choose to study a range of topics in their chosen line of expertise. Some topics include:

– Pulmonary Disorders

– Men’s and Women’s Health

– Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

– GI Disorders

– Urological Disorders/STDs

– Hematology

– Neurological/Psychiatric Disorders

– Endocrine Disorders

Related Resources:

Degree Tree Nurse Practitioner

American Academy of Family Physicians Nurse Practitioner PDF