What is a Nurse Practitioner in 2021

What is a Nurse Practitioner in 2021

Today, nurse practitioners have become the health partners of choice for most Americans as they provide easily accessible primary care. These health care professionals blend their services with clinical experience to help prevent and manage medical conditions. A nurse practitioner’s practice emphasizes the patient population, including adult gerontological, pediatric, and woman health such as nurse-midwife. In some instances, they might choose a subspecialty in other health areas, including oncology, cardiovascular health, and dermatology. 


The nursing profession has increasingly evolved over the last century. To this effect, several nursing schools are offering nursing education programs to train and prepare nursing students to enter into the nurse practitioner profession. This healthcare profession opens up several career opportunities, including nurse anesthetists, general nurse practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses, and family nurse practitioners. 


To become a nurse practitioner, you must complete a master’s or doctoral degree program. You must have advanced knowledge and expertise in clinical practices beyond those of professional registered nurses. Graduate programs prepare nurses with clinical competency and specialized nursing knowledge to practice primary care, long-term care, and acute care health settings. Additionally, nurse practitioners must undergo national certification and periodic review to ensure that they conform to the code for ethical practices. 


If you are considering entering the nurse practitioner profession and don’t know where to start, this article is for you. It explores in detail the things you need to know about nurse practitioners, including: 


  1. Duties and responsibilities of nurse practitioners 
  2. Becoming a nurse practitioner 
  3. Jobs for nurse practitioners 
  4. Salary and benefits for nurse practitioners 

Duties and Responsibilities of Nurse Practitioners 

Nursing education programs for nurse practitioners train and prepare them to work in various care settings, including primary and acute care. They have a significant role in educating patients about prescribed medical treatments and preventative care. Nurse practitioners also perform physical exams and act as the leading primary care provider, managing their patients’ health. 


NPs also help manage acute and chronic illnesses in long-term care settings. As family nurse practitioners, they collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide various family-focused health services to patients. Next, we explore the types of patients managed by nurse practitioners and the daily tasks. 

What Kinds of Patients Can A Nurse Practitioner Work With? 

Nurse practitioners provide care services to patients of all ages, including seniors, adults, adolescents, children, and infants, with the most common nurse practitioner specialty being family nurse practitioner. To get in-depth knowledge, let’s explore the various kinds of patients that nurse practitioners work with. 


  • Families 


Family nurse practitioners provide primary and general care services to patients of all ages, from pediatrics to adults. These health care professionals evaluate, diagnose, and develop effective treatment plans for patients to help treat and prevent the re-occurrence of medical illnesses. Patients might seek the services of FNPs at various healthcare facilities, including clinics, hospitals, health insurance organizations, doctor’s offices, and many more. 


  • Psychiatric Patients 


Mental illness has increasingly become prevalent among Americans, with the number expected to grow in the future. With this, the demand for the services of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners has rapidly increased. Nurse practitioners provide various health care services, such as diagnosing and developing care plans for patients with psychiatric disorders and other mental illnesses. They also offer counseling services to both psychiatric patients and their families. 


  • Acute Care Patients 


Acute care patients need short-term care services for a severe episode of illnesses that result from trauma, diseases, and recovery from surgery. The services are provided by advanced practice nurses known as acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs). Acute care patients seek medical attention from ICUs, inpatient hospitals, and emergency rooms where critical or life-threatening conditions are treated. 


Other kinds of patients include women and adults managed by women’s health nurse practitioners and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners, respectively. They also provide community health services to vulnerable health populations. 

What Can an NP Do That’s the Same as A Doctor? 

General practitioners, primary care physicians, and nurse practitioners spend the better part of their days making a difference in people’s lives, as they are dedicated to treating patient’s illnesses to improve their health. Even though nurse practitioners undergo less training than doctors, these health care professionals share various responsibilities.


Both nurse practitioners and medical doctors evaluate and diagnose patients for various illnesses as primary care services. They both prescribe medications to patients and develop effective treatment plans to help cure the diseases. Both MDs and NPs can order diagnostic tests and review the tests for abnormalities and record medical histories. 

What Is the Average Day Like for A Nurse Practitioner? 

A typical day for a nurse practitioner requires them to perform various responsibilities, including physical examinations and patient observations. Specific tasks depend on the facility where the NP works. Some healthcare facilities receive new patients daily. Nurse practitioners are expected to record details about the patient, including medical histories, medications that they’re taking, and symptoms they are experiencing. They also create patient care plans to help prevent illnesses and treat existing conditions. Their role also involves monitoring and operating a wide range of medical equipment. 

Becoming A Nurse Practitioner 

The nurse practitioner job is one of the most promising health care professions in the country. Nurse practitioners improve the lives of different individuals by delivering primary, emergency, and acute care services. The demand for healthcare services is rapidly growing, leading to high demand for nurse practitioners. With this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected 28% growth in the profession, which is likely to lead to a promising career outlook in the future. But how does one become a nurse practitioner? 


Aspiring nurse practitioners must meet specific qualifications that involve an array of academic requirements and license credentials. Are you an aspiring nurse practitioner? Keep reading as this page outlines the academic qualifications and the details you need to know about nurse practitioner programs. 

How Can You Become a Nurse Practitioner While Working? 

Whether you are a high school graduate or a working professional, if you seek to enter the nursing profession as a nurse practitioner, you need many qualifications. Enrolling in a nursing education program is the way to becoming a nurse practitioner. Working professionals need to earn a bachelor of science in nursing degree before considering pursuing a nurse practitioner program. The bachelor’s degree program allows the working professional to enter the nursing practice as a registered nurse. 


A bachelor’s degree program typically takes four years to complete, after which a student is expected to complete a supervised internship program in a clinical setting. After earning your nursing degree, you must obtain a nursing license that allows you to practice as a registered nurse. To get a license, you must pass the National Council for Licensure Examination (NCLEX). 


While practicing as a registered nurse, you should pursue various specializations, including family care, pediatrics, mental health, gerontology, emergency, and neonatal. These specializations open multiple opportunities, such as family nurse practitioners, acute care nurse practitioners, and many more. Narrowing down a specialization enables aspiring nurse practitioners to enroll in an MSN program that’s related to their focus areas.


To work as a nurse practitioner, you must attend a program with an accredited master of science or doctor nursing practice (DNP) program. These graduate degrees enable registered nurses to gain in-depth knowledge and clinical expertise in nursing practice. Advanced practice nurses with a DNP qualify for various nursing leadership positions and nurse practitioner jobs. Advanced nursing education programs are state requirements for nurse practitioners. Graduate students need to pursue specializations that align with their career goals. For instance, those intending to work as family nurses must choose programs that address family health concerns. Also, they need to perform internships or practicums in family health-focused settings, as they will receive the hands-on experience required to practice as a family nurse practitioner. 


Earning a master’s or DNP allows graduate students to obtain certification from specialty nursing boards and nurse practitioner state licensure. A certification from a specialty nursing board allows NPs to practice in their focus areas. For example, those intending to practice as a family nurse practitioner should obtain certification from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. 


State licensure allows nursing graduates to practice professionally in a particular state. They act as proof of national nursing certification and advanced nursing degrees. These certifications let you enter the professional nursing field. After obtaining the certification, nurse practitioners should find a suitable opportunity that meets their career goals. 

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner? 

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners requires nurse practitioners to hold a graduate degree before undertaking their nursing practice. Although DNP programs are highly recommended, masters’ in science programs continue to dominate the nurse practitioner market. Let’s explore the education requirements needed to become a nurse practitioner in detail. 



  • High School Diploma 


To help prepare students for nursing education, they need to complete high school coursework in various areas, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, and psychology. Students need a high GPA to gain admission in a nursing education program in various learning institutions. It is of high benefit to pursue various extracurricular involvement in a clinical setting through paid or voluntary work. 


  • Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing 


Although you can enter the nursing profession with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s of science is rapidly becoming the entry-level educational requirement for nursing practice. Earning a bachelor’s of science in nursing from an accredited program helps qualify nursing graduates for licensure. Completing a four-year bachelor’s degree program prepares students to complete pass their nursing boards and practice competently. This licensure enables you to gain experience in the field of nursing in various specialties that might interest you. 


  • Graduate Degree in Nursing 


Getting hands-on experience in the nursing profession enables aspiring nurse practitioners to apply for graduate degree programs. Even though the two-year master’s degree is common among nurse practitioners, the four-year DNP program is the most preferred graduate degree. The graduate degree programs help train and prepare aspiring NPs for various clinical roles and specializations. The programs allow students to pursue various national and state certifications, which are the primary nursing practice licensure requirements. 


  • Specialty Certifications 


After rigorous academic preparation and several years of experience, graduate students might be ready to seek certification from specialty nursing boards and state nursing agencies. Both the nursing board and state certification vary considerably by area of expertise. Some of the specialty certifications include the National Certification Corporation (NCC), the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The certifications must be regularly reviewed to ensure relevant nursing practice. 

How Long Do Nurse Practitioner Programs Generally Take? 

To become a nurse practitioner, you must fulfill specific educational requirements before earning your license and being able to practice independently. Nurse practitioner programs vary in terms of the number of years students take to complete them. For instance, a bachelor’s degree program takes four years to complete. However, those who prefer to enroll in associate degree programs graduate in two years. 


A master’s degree programs typically take two to three years to complete. Aspiring NPs considering pursuing DNPs might dedicate more than four years to their nursing education. Remember, these programs require students to complete supervised practicum or internship programs in a clinical setting as part of their coursework. Graduate degrees also require students to complete specific research projects in the nursing field before earning their degree. The internship programs and research projects might extend the number of years taken to complete nurse practitioner programs. 


Aspiring nurse practitioners wishing to complete their programs within a short time frame should consider earning their nursing degrees through online learning. Online programs are quite flexible and convenient as they allow students to study in their free time. Those enrolled in full-time online learning are likely to take a few years to complete their coursework, but those in a part-time program will take longer.

Jobs for Nurse Practitioners 

Nurse practitioner programs open up several job opportunities to nursing graduates. Immediately after completing their graduate degree program and earning their practicing licensure, nurse practitioners might gain employment in various settings, including primary, acute, long-term, and emergency health settings. 

Where Are the Most Jobs for Nurse Practitioners Available? 

Factors such as the impending shortage of care physicians and the increase in the aging population have led to the nationwide rise in NPS demand, including family nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, among others. Although a nurse practitioner’s career outlook is promising, the demand is significantly greater in some states than in others. We have reviewed several states and came up with a list of those with the highest demand for nurse practitioners.



  • California 


California is one of the states with the highest demand for nurse practitioners due to the increased demand for healthcare services. With this, the state is likely to have over 15,000 job openings for nurses by 2024. As it stands, California creates approximately 7% of all-new nurse practitioner’s jobs in the country. The current annual wages for the nurses are roughly $138,660. 


  • Texas 


According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the nurse practitioner occupation is among the fastest-growing careers in the state. The job opportunities for NPs are expected to grow by 43.8% by 2026. According to a recent report, close to 13,700 nurse practitioners are currently employed in the region. The average annual wage for nurse practitioners practicing within the state is $115,440, making Texas among the highest-paying states. 


  • Florida 


According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the nurse practitioner occupation is the fastest-growing state career. It was predicted that the NP jobs would sharply grow by 35% between 2017 and 2027. The state currently employs slightly over 12,000 nurse practitioners earning a median salary of $99,980 annually. 


  • New York 


According to New York’s labor department, nurse practitioner positions will witness an occupational growth of 32% by 2024. There will be a total of over 15,000 jobs for nurse practitioners by 2024, an indication that over 640 new jobs will be available in the state yearly throughout the period. 

What Is the Job Outlook for A Nurse Practitioner? 

Nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioner employment rates are projected to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029, making the nurse practitioner position one of the country’s fastest-growing occupations. The increased growth is likely attributed to the increased demand for aging population care services and the need for preventive care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average of $115,800 per year or $55.67 per hour. 

What Are the Different Specializations for Nurse Practitioners? 

If you are considering becoming a nurse practitioner, there are several specializations that you might consider pursuing. Here are some of the common types: 


  • Family Nurse Practitioner: This is the most common nurse practitioner specialization. They provide family care to patients of all ages within a primary care setting. 
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: These nurse practitioners provide care in settings with patients who need medical treatment due to illness or injury. They incorporate nursing technology in their practice. 
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Neonatal nurses provide care to the youngest patients, such as sick or premature infants or those injured during birth. 
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: This practitioner provides care to infants and young people aged 21 and below. 
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: This NP provides primary mental health care to patients with mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders. They assess the patient’s needs and develop a treatment plan to help manage and fully treat various psychiatric disorders. 

Salary and Benefits for Nurse Practitioners 

Salary and benefits are the significant factors that drive an individual to pursue career advancement. Most graduates pursue professional careers with higher remuneration packages. Nurse practitioners earn sizable salaries due to the increased demand for their services. The salary and benefits for nurse practitioners typically vary from state to state, with the highest paying state being the state of California. 


Nursing salaries also depend on the cost of living, years of experience, and the nurse practitioner’s position. Healthcare settings also pay NPs depending on the size of the facility. If you are considering pursuing a healthcare profession as a nurse practitioner, here is everything you need to know about the salaries and benefits. 

What Benefits Do Nurse Practitioners Typically Get? 

In addition to salaries, nurse practitioners are entitled to several other benefits, mainly due to the nursing profession’s high-risk nature. The benefits might vary from one organization to another. Here are some of the specific benefits entitled to nurse practitioners: 



  • Health Insurance 


Nurse practitioners enjoy various health insurance coverage, which is, in most cases, paid by their employers. The employer provides these health insurance plans to cover the practitioner’s healthcare costs if they fall ill while performing their daily duties. 


  • Retirement Benefits 


Most employers are willing to contribute to retirement plans, depending on the salary amounts. The benefits usually amount to thousands of dollars annually. Therefore, always consider openings with an adequate retirement benefits plan. 


  • Paid Time Off 


Nurse practitioners have unconventional working schedules. So, having paid time off benefits is beneficial. However, not all organizations give paid time off to their employees. 


  • Continuing Education Allowance 


Continuing education can be quite costly, especially when you advance your education to higher levels. Certifications require regular renewal. Most employers cover these costs, reducing the financial burden linked to continuing education programs and licensing.

  1. e) Malpractice Insurance 

Some nurse practitioners are entitled to professional liability coverage, which helps cover the nurse practitioner for prior acts. The coverage plans are always expensive, making it highly impossible for the practitioner to pay for the premiums on their own. 

What Is the Salary Range for A Nurse Practitioner? 

The average starting salary for nurse practitioners is $104,000.  Salary highly depends on their area of certification and years of experience. For instance, neonatal nurse practitioners earn an average salary of $125,000, while neonatal nurse practitioners earn $122,500. On the other hand, family nurse practitioners earn $107,000, while pediatric nurse practitioners $108,500. A psychiatric nurse practitioner earns approximately $115,000 annually. 


Related nursing occupations earn similar salaries as nurse practitioners, while others earn substantially lower. For instance, registered nurses take home $77,460 annually, while nurse-midwife earn an average salary of $108,810. The wages of other related occupations are as follows: 


  • Nurse anesthetist: $174,790
  • Medical and Health Service manager: $115,160
  • Physician Assistant: $112,410

What Can Increase Your Salary as A Nurse Practitioner? 

Highly skilled nurse practitioners might employ certain strategies to attain a higher level of compensation. For instance, a nurse practitioner might consider pursuing certification in different areas as holding additional certification broadens their scope of practice. Exploring new areas in the medical field enables NPs to cultivate their skills and competencies, which might open job opportunities in higher-paying positions. Working for several years enables a nurse practitioner to gain more work experience, translating into increased earning. Conducting medical research also increases your earning potential. Other medical writing, such as journal abstracts, content for health care websites, and news articles in nursing can help earn additional income. 

In Summary 

Pursuing a nurse practitioner program will likely open up a new world of opportunities within the nursing field. A nurse practitioner career is one of the most promising jobs in the country. As a nurse practitioner, you will be at the forefront of providing primary to patients in various settings, including primary, acute, and long-term care settings. When you have an NP license, you can also operate a private practice or work under the direct supervision of a physician, though this varies somewhat by state. The nurse practitioner occupation enables you to directly impact the lives of others. Nurse practitioners are involved in providing medical care to vulnerable populations. 


Nurse practitioners work with various types of patients, including families, acute care patients, psychiatric patients, children, and older adults. NPs provide medical services based on their specializations and focus areas. NP’s typical tasks include:


  • Evaluating and diagnosing patients.
  • Recording patients’ records.
  • Ordering diagnostic tests.
  • Developing treatment plans to help manage and fully treat illnesses. 


To become a nurse practitioner, you must earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing to obtain a registered nurse certification. Aspiring nurse practitioners must gain hands-on experience before pursuing a graduate degree program. While master’s degree programs are more common, doctorate programs are recommended, especially for those who want to take their career as far as possible. The graduate program prepares students to take their national certification examinations, leading to nursing practitioner licensure. Some of the job openings for NPs include family nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, and nurse-midwife.

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