How To Become A Nurse Practitioner

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Smiling Nurse Practitioner folding her armsNurse practitioners (NPs) offer high-quality primary and non-primary care to patients across a lifespan, from pregnant mothers and babies to the elderly. Nurse practitioners are particularly vital in places that are medically underserved, such as inner cities and rural areas.

In 2019, U.S. News and World Report ranked the nurse practitioners field overall as the 5th best profession in the United States. With the physician shortage to last until 2025, the demand for all types of nurse practitioners is expected to continue to increase. For registered nurses (RNs), learning how to become a nurse practitioner can be a stepping stone to filling in gaps left by physicians.

“Many nurse practitioners first worked as registered nurses where their treatment of patients extended to holistic and wellness care, and a nurse practitioner brings that background to his or her diagnosis, treatment and management of medical issues,” U.S. News and World Report said in “What is a Nurse Practitioner?”

Students who pursue an online Master of Science in Nursing degree at Duquesne University can gain the skills they need to transition from being a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) to a nurse practitioner. Learning how to become a nurse practitioner is vital to the future of healthcare.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

The first step to becoming an FNP is earning an MSN degree through a university that offers the family nurse practitioner specialty. Pursuing the online Family Nurse Practitioner MSN degree at Duquesne University 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 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (ANCC) FNP exam.  The AANPCB is a competency-based exam that demonstrates a nurse practitioner’s knowledge and expertise. The ANCC certification program gauges a nurse’s ability to provide quality care.

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

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

As primary- and specialty care providers, FNPs perform a wide array of duties, from 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.

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

Working as a Family Nurse Practitioner

In 2020, 14 states allow FNPs to have full practice authority immediately after earning their license and 14 others require some form of physician oversight for a predetermined number of hours before full practice authority or full prescriptive authority.

AANP President Sophia Thomas said NPs are crucial to primary care because of their whole-body approach to wellness and prevention.

“NP-provided care is associated with decreased hospitalizations, decreased re-admissions and improved health care outcomes. These cost savings are compounded in states with FPA (full practice authority), where there is less unnecessary provider duplication and involvement in matters that can be fully handled by an NP,” she said in The Hill. “It’s time that policymakers at both the federal and state level take the steps needed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of where they live, have access to the primary care they deserve.”

Nurse Practitioners Leading Role in Pandemic

During the height of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, lawmakers waived regulations that restricted NP practice. In March 2020, five states suspended some requirements and 12 others modified requirements for greater practice flexibility. In an open letter to the National Governors Association, AANP backed the move.

“Removing barriers to care across the health care system and ensuring that clinicians can bring all their knowledge and skill to treat patients will improve the efficiency of our health care workforce and our ability to fight back during this crisis,” Thomas wrote in the letter.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 said.

Career Outlook

As of February 2020, more than 290,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) are licensed in the United States, the AANP said. Of them, 65.4% are family nurse practitioners.

By 2024, the nurse practitioner profession is projected to grow 35%, compared to 30% for physician assistants and 13% 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.

The AANP, in a 2019 survey, found the median base salary for a full-time NP was $110,000. With bonuses, the median salary was $115,000.

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

RNs who want to learn how to become a nurse practitioner have a variety of options. Many RNs choose online coursework because of the flexibility and credibility. At Duquesne University, the online FNP-MSN program students take coursework in family care, pharmacology and healthcare ethics, among others. The work prepares RNs to work with individuals from birth through adulthood.

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. RNs graduate the program ready to pass licensure testing and move into private practice or to work alongside a physician. Courses are presented online so students can continue their family and career responsibilities while pursuing advanced educational goals.

The university also offers MSN degrees in other tracks:

  • Nurse Education and Faculty Roles
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
  • Forensic Nursing

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


100 Best Jobs: U.S. News & World Report
What is a Nurse Practitioner?: U.S. News & World Report
28 states with full practice authority for NPs: Becker’s Hospital Review
Nurse practitioners are the solution to health care provider shortages: The Hill
COVID-19 State Emergency Response: Temporarily Suspended and Waived Practice Agreement Requirements: AANP
Open Letter to the National Governors Association: AANP
NP Fact Sheet: AANP
More Than 290,000 Nurse Practitioners Licensed in the United States: AANP
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: BLS