How To Become A Nurse Practitioner

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) occupy a critical place in our healthcare system. They offer high-quality primary and non-primary care to patients across the lifespan, from pregnant mothers and babies to the elderly, and are particularly vital in places that are medically underserved, such as inner cities and rural areas.

Smiling Nurse Practitioner folding her arms

The nurse practitioner field, which includes the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty, was ranked the second best job for 2017, according to U.S. News and World Report. In addition, a significant physician shortage is projected to affect the U.S. by 2025. This prediction likely means an increased demand for nurse practitioners, whose training and abilities can help to fill in the gaps left by fewer doctors.

Students who pursue an online Master of Science in Nursing degree at Duquesne University can gain the skills they need to transition from being registered nursewith a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) to a nurse practitioner.

Becoming An FNP

The first step to becoming a family nurse practitioner is earning an MSN degreewith a family nurse practitioner specialty. Pursuing the online Family Nurse Practitioner MSN degree at Duquesne is a convenient way for RNs to complete the coursework and clinical hours needed to advance their careers. Graduates are then eligible to take the AANPCP or ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners certification is a competency-based exam that demonstrates a nurse practitioner’s knowledge and expertise. The American Nurses Credentialing Center certification program gauges a nurse’s ability to provide quality care.

Duties Of An FNP

As primary- and specialty-care providers, NPs perform a myriad of duties, from managing patients’ health and providing health education to helping prevent and treat disease. They may also prescribe medication, perform diagnostic exams, and interpret those exams to make diagnoses.

NPs may conduct research, teach staff members about new procedures or policies, or provide consultation services based on their specific field of knowledge.

While nurse practitioners practice healthcare across the lifespan, they typically work in certain areas, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or mental health.

Working As An FNP

Many NPs work independently, but some must consult with physicians, depending on the scope of practice allowed in each state. Only twenty-two states currently grant full-practice authority to nurse practitioners. Other states still have reduced or restricted-practice regulations in place.

Full-practice status allows NPs to perform all medical functions independently, without physician supervision, which is an especially crucial need in less populated regions where access to quality healthcare may be lacking.

“There is a need for more healthcare professionals in rural areas of our state,” says South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard in a February 2017 Forbes.com article. South Dakota was the most recent state to enact legislation that gives nurse practitioners full-practice authority.

“This bill will eliminate a hurdle for some nurse practitioners and midwives who want to serve in those high-need communities,” Daugaard says in a February 2017 press release from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Leading policy groups cite extensive data showing nurse practitioners, including those with full-practice authority, have safety and quality outcomes that are similar to those of physicians and also offer patients a much-needed focus on health promotion and disease prevention, the AANP press release says.

Career Outlook

More than 234,000 nurse practitioners are licensed in the U.S., according to a June 2017 press release from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The workforce has nearly doubled since 2007 and continues to grow at a fast rate, with 23,000 new nurse practitioners graduating from programs in the 2015-2016 academic year — up more than 15 percent from the previous year.

By 2024, the nurse practitioner profession is projected to grow 35 percent, compared to 30 percent for physician assistants and 13 percent for physicians (excluding surgeons and anesthesiologists), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

NPs earn an average of $50 per hour — a total of more than $100,000 per year, according to the BLS. They are required to hold a master’s degree, as well as state licensure and national certification.

Nurse practitioners may work in a variety of healthcare settings, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care, schools, nurse-managed clinics, or their own practices.

About Duquesne University’s Online Family Nurse Practitioner MSN Program

Students enrolled in Duquesne University’s online MSN program can study for careers as family nurse practitioners. Coursework includes organizational and clinical leadership in nursing and healthcare, clinical prevention and population-based health promotion, and foundations of family care.

For more information about the online MSN program and how to become a family nurse practitioner, visit Duquesne University’s School of Nursing website.