What Is a Nurse Practitioner and Why Are They Important?

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What Is A Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse is arguably the most important person in a hospital setting or any healthcare facility. Due to the critical role that these professionals play in the hospital, it has become necessary for them to get more advanced training so as to serve patients even much better. This advanced training is what led to the development of the nursing practitioner profession a few decades ago. A nurse practitioner can be defined as a registered nurse who has pursued specialized postgraduate training in nursing or any other closely related medical field. Most of these nurses also go on to pursue doctoral courses and hence becoming very skilled experts in the profession. The increased expertise gives the practitioner the ability and skills to run a clinic as they can be able to do most medical basics such as diagnosis and prescription. Some also prefer to work with physicians, but their role in the clinic or hospitals is more advanced due to their in-depth medical knowledge.

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What Are the Roles of the Practitioner?

The day to day functions or tasks of an NP will mostly depend on the area of specialization that he or she has pursued and also the work environment. Different work setting will require the NP to perform various tasks, and so it is tough to narrow down the roles of these specialists into a few particular things. In most clinical settings the NP will usually encounter the patient at a very early stage and in some cases, he or she is the first one to attend to the patient when they get to the hospital. This means that they are required to collect as much information about the patients’ health condition as possible to aid in intervention. However, an NP is expected to perform the following roles in most places where they are employed.

  • Diagnose and treat infections, injuries and acute illnesses.
  • Prescribe medication for patients. The prescription that they offer should include dosage and frequency which is the same as what a physician would provide.
  • A practitioner is also expected to teach his/her patients how to manage their health, design treatment recommendation and make the necessary recommendations for better health.
  • They are also tasked with recording the medical history of patients by looking at symptoms and diagnosis. The skills of the practitioners allow them to record a detailed medical history that can be used by other professionals to intervene on the patient’s condition.
  • Superior training also makes them good counselors and in most hospitals and clinics this is also a part of their regular roles. They advise patients about their condition and give them the essential guidance on medications, interactions and side effects if any.

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Personality Traits and Skills Required to Be a Successful NP

Training will equip you with the knowledge needed to do this job, but this is not sufficient to succeed in this profession. Particular skills and personality traits are necessary for any NP to be effective in their roles and without this, they will not offer patients the services they deserve regardless of how highly trained they may be. Apart from just making sure that you provide patient’s quality services, these traits will also help get you through the stressful and long days that are characteristic of this profession.

The best NP just like all other medical professional are empathetic and caring as this not only helps them succeed in their career but is also essential for the well-being of those under their care. They should also be good communicators especially given the fact that in most cases they will act as a liaison between the physician and patients. Good communication skills also help him or her in counseling the patients and their families in a caring and clear way. An NP should also have stress management skills since this type of work is extremely stressful, and it is easy to break down. Working as a practitioner means that you have to stay in the hospitals for many hours and work under a lot of pressure. Other common things in the hospitals such as losing a patient can weigh down on the NP and so knowing how to deal with all this stress is the only way to survive in this field.

Types of Nurse Practitioners and Their Roles

Each nurse practitioner specializes in a certain field in the medical sector, and this specialization is what has brought about the various types of NP currently available. And new ones are always coming up as their need arises. The following are some of the most common NP specialties.

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Some Pediatric NPs run their clinics, but most of them work under a pediatrician or in a hospital. Here they specialize in issues dealing with adolescents, children, and even infants.
  • Neonatal Practitioner. This is one of the best-paying practitioner specialties, and these NPs care for both pre-term and full-term infants and newborns that are ill (critically). It is also one of the most stressful since the NNP has to manage both the patient and the parents.
  • Family NP. This is a more general NP and his or her principal role is to deal with general family health. Although a few that have trained in this specialty will still prefer to care specifically for women under family health.
  • Retail Health NP. Retail health is a relatively new specialty, and it deals with minor illnesses and injuries. NPs that choose this path should be ready to work independently because they usually practice solo in their clinics.
  • Mental/Psychiatric Health NP. As the name suggests they deal with patients who have psychiatric or other related mental problems. They treat both chronic and acute mental illness patients and counsel their families. Most are hospital based, but there are a few that run clinics.
  • Surgical NP. These practitioners’ primary role is to assist physicians in surgical procedures. Although they are not licensed to conduct surgeries, they have most of the basic training, and so they come in handy in the operating room. Some of their roles include suturing a surgical wound and conducting post-operation visits.
  • Oncology NP. An oncology NP is tasked with the management of various types of cancer and they do this in collaboration with the physician. Although it is also one of the best-paying specialties, it can be a very demanding career.

What Degree Is Required To Become a Practitioner?

To become an NP one must complete a master’s degree program or even a doctoral for those who wish to take their career further. These professionals also have advanced clinical training that is beyond what is required of a registered nurse. It is important also to note that before you even start training to become an NP you have to fulfill all the other conditions required to become a registered nurse apart from the training. The certification process after completion of masters or doctoral degree will vary from one state to the other. However, in most states an NP must be certified by the American Nurse Credential Center and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners to be allowed to practice within their jurisdiction.

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Licensing/Certification Requirement

Since an NP is already a registered nurse the certification and licensing process is simpler especially for those who are already working in a hospital. The most important requirement is the completion of the masters or doctoral degree program and all the clinical hours required. After this, the nurse should apply for certification from the two bodies tasked with this and do the required the exams. If the NP is successful in the exams, he or she will receive certification, and so they can apply to get a license from the particular state that they want to work in. The licensing procedure also varies from one state to the other, but all require academic qualification and certification before one can apply for the license. Apart from this, some states will also consider things like employment history and professional reputation.

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Other Places that They Can Work Apart From Hospitals

Since the inception of this profession in the 1960’s, NPs have had to overcome several challenges as they sought to become a mainstream healthcare profession. And they have since become an integral part of healthcare services not only in hospitals but also in the following areas.

  • Private offices.Here they are tasked with the provision of health care services to employees.
  • Health Departments in governmental and non-governmental institutions.
  • Community Clinics and health centers.
  • School and College Clinics
  • Home Health Care Agencies
  • Health Maintenance and Research Organizations
  • Nursing Homes

Why Are NP’s Important

  1. NPs are more than just caregivers because they also serve other functions such as mentors, researchers, and educators. In their capacity, they are tasked with disease prevention, health promotion, and health education or counseling.
  2. They are also vital in helping to lower the health costs through the services that they provide. NPs provide counseling and quality care and hence aiding in bringing down the costs of getting health services. According to statistics, people who visit NPs regularly have short hospital stays, fewer emergencies and also lower medical costs.
  3. Although they might not offer all the solutions, they are important because they help to reduce the primary care shortage. It is important to note that NPs record more than 900 million visits from patients in America each year.

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Salary and Job Outlook

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There is a shortage of almost all types of professionals in the healthcare sector, and so the NPs help to fill in the void in many ways. And so due to this their services are always in demand especially given the fact that there are many different specialties. This has also been brought about by more patients discovering the benefits that they can offer. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for their services will grow by 31% in the decade between 2014 and 2024.

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NPs also have several places that they can work except the hospitals and there is also the option for them to open a clinic after getting licensed and this shows that the job outlook is very positive for these professionals.If the availability of many work opportunities is not enough to convince you to take up this career, then the salary will. And although what you earn will depend on your specialty all of them pay thousands of dollars above the national median wage. On average, a nursing practitioner can expect to earn $ 97,000 per year. This is just the average because the experienced ones that run their clinics make a couple of times this.

Summary: 5 Easy Steps for Becoming an NP

  1. The first step is to become a registered nurse by completing the required training and clinical practice and then sitting for the certification exams.
  2. Gain experience working in a hospital or any other health facility.
  3. Enroll for a graduate degree with the preferred one being a Master of Science in Nursing
  4. The fourth step after your graduate degree is to get certification and state license.
  5. Pursue further specialization depending on the particular area you want to work. And it is also a good idea to go for a doctoral if you have the time and resources.
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