Nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) who hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, as well as a license from an approved national licensing body, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and state licensing board. Certification is available for a variety of specialties and each licensing body has its own requirements, but they typically include the aforementioned post-graduate degree in nursing, a certain amount of nursing experience and a passing score on a certification examination. Individuals should check with their state boards of nursing to determine which certifications are accepted in their area, as the requirements for becoming licensed vary state by state.
The nurse practitioner’s scope of practice encompasses direct patient care, including diagnosing and treating illnesses. As stated, many nurse practitioners hold specialty licenses, specializing in areas such as acute care, adult care, pediatric care, gerontology and family nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners also have varying degrees of prescriptive authority.
Nurse practitioners generally earn higher salaries and more generous benefit packages than those received by registered nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average nurse practitioner salary in May 2016 was $104,610. Due to newly insured patients, aging populations and greater emphasis on preventative care, the job outlook for nurse practitioners is better than ever. BLS projects that nurse practitioner employment will grow by 35 percent from 2014 to 2024.
Types of Nurse Practitioners
Cardiac vascular nurse practitioners work with patients dealing with heart failure, arrhythmias and high blood pressure and cholesterol. These nurse practitioners have different responsibilities, including cardiovascular assessment, training for anticoagulation therapy, electrophysiology treatment, management of cardiovascular devices such as pacemakers, treatment through medication and interpretation of data and tests.
Orthopedic nurse practitioners focus on musculoskeletal conditions, conducting physical examinations of patients, treating their ailments and analyzing their outcomes. These nurse practitioners work very closely with physicians to coordinate patient care.
Pediatric nurse practitioners provide care for infants and children. They assess the growth and development of their patients to ensure they are maturing at a normal rate. They also educate patients and families.
In addition to caring for newborn infants, neonatal nurse practitioners care for young children for the first few years of their lives. These nurse practitioners are well equipped to care for high-risk and preterm newborns, often working independently. Though most NNPs are employed in acute care hospital settings, they may work in private practice as well.
Through patient education, these nurse practitioners focus on preventive care to keep adults healthy as they age. Having the ability to diagnose and treat diseases, adult nurse practitioners may deliver high-quality primary care as well as managing patients with chronic health issues.
Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners use theoretical, scientific and clinical knowledge to offer mental health care to patients in mental health centers, psychiatric facilities, correctional facilities, and schools. PMHNPs assess, diagnose and treat a variety of psychiatric illnesses and mental health conditions.
Gerontological nurse practitioners have the expertise to treat older adults, as well as adults of all ages. They often test and evaluate gerontological research and influence social policy regarding health program development and implementation. GNPs integrate best practices into healthcare systems and offer cost-effective services.
Pediatric acute care nurse practitioners treat children with acute, critical and chronic illnesses from infancy until adulthood. These nurse practitioners diagnose and treat illnesses, as well as from care plans. They are also responsible for educating patients and families to influence healthy outcomes.
Family nurse practitioners often work in private practice to offer primary care to families. They are able to treat and diagnose a wide variety of illnesses and educate their patients on subjects such as childbirth, newborn care, aging and cholesterol and stress management. Depending on their state of practice, family nurse practitioners can have high levels of autonomy and even the ability to prescribe medication. FNPs often collaborate with physicians to discuss treatment and best practices.
AG-ACNPs provide advanced care to adults, with a special focus on the elderly. These nurse practitioners treat acute, critical and chronic conditions, working with a variety of healthcare professionals to improve patient outcomes. AG-ACNPs use patient histories to optimize treatment plans and provide the best care possible for the specific needs of individual patients.
Women’s health nurse practitioners provide care to women of all ages, including adolescents going through puberty, pregnant mothers-to-be and women going through menopause. WHNPs also treat eating disorders, offer prenatal care and counsel patients on contraceptives and STDs. Some are more involved in diagnosing acute illnesses, while others focus on preventive healthcare, such as offering advice for healthy pregnancies.
Oncology nurse practitioners work with a team of healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat cancer. They are also a significant source of psychological support for patients and their families, acting as educators on diseases and treatments.