The medical field is so vast that it can be quite daunting to choose a speciality that suits you best. But if you crave self-determination, autonomy, and plenty of career advancement opportunities, becoming a nurse practitioner can be the best career decision you could ever make.
Nurse practitioners are many steps higher up the pecking order than registered nurses. To become an NP, you must possess an advanced degree and learn specific specialties.
Nurse practitioners can practice independently or in collaboration with other medical experts. They can diagnose and treat various health conditions in many different settings, from private healthcare facilities to community centres, educational facilities, and lots more.
Also, the nurse practitioner is billed as one of the fastest-growing jobs in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. With demand for NPs reaching all-time highs, now is a great time to consider a career as an NP.
If you’re interested in the role, you’ll find this high-level overview of an NP career quite interesting. In the following sections, we’ll take a peek into the daily life of an NP. We’ll look into what they do, the skills they count on daily, and practical steps to launch into an NP career.
What is a nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with advanced certifications and licenses to diagnose and treat patients autonomously. The role of an NP is designed to ease the pressure on physicians, allowing patients to get sound medical attention without any intervention from doctors.
In most states, NPs are licensed to examine patients physically and psychologically, carry out diagnoses, prescribe drugs, and refer patients to appropriate specialists—responsibilities that are often reserved for doctors.
Besides the flexibility and autonomy of the role, NP also offers opportunities to focus on your desired areas of specialty. This can fast-track your journey to becoming an NP. If you’ve already earned a specialty degree, you don’t necessarily need to learn a different specialty to become an NP. Taking on a new specialty can add a few more months or even years to your NP studies.
To put things into perspective, let’s compare NPs to physicians since they share much in common.
They both possess a wealth of clinical expertise that qualifies them to operate with relative autonomy. However, NPs are still nurses, and they operate within the scope of nursing practice. While they can work autonomously in a wide range of settings, including even their private practice, NPs are more likely to rely extensively on other experts in a medical team, whereas doctors often work with multidisciplinary teams in a supervisory capacity.
Given the close similarities between the two roles, there are usually no one-size-fits-all policies and standards for NP across multiple settings. The boundaries of an NP’s role are usually determined by their healthcare facility. For instance, they may have much greater autonomy at facilities with a few physicians or none at all. Their scope of practice also depends on other factors, like their specialty and the state they’re practicing in.
What is a day in the life of a nurse practitioner like?
The daily routine of an NP is mostly determined by the factors discussed above: their specialty, place of work, and state of practice. However, NPs do share quite a lot in their daily lives.
For starters, they work on the frontlines of healthcare, providing primary care for many types of patients. They often work across the different levels of healthcare delivery, from primary to secondary, tertiary, and palliative care. That means they handle emergencies and take on new cases of ailment while also helping manage chronic conditions and returning patients, helping people prevent ailments, and advocating for healthier lifestyles. In more specific detail, here are some activities that overlap across the daily lives of NPs:
Examining patients physically and psychologically
As frontline healthcare workers, NP’s daily routine revolves around patients. Every day, when NPs meet with old or new patients, they take time out to examine their physical and mental health.
They hold friendly, laid-back face-to-face conversations bordering on everything from their current symptoms to their medical history and social issues. They also carry out routine checks of patients’ vitals, monitoring their blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate, etc.
After the initial consultations, NPs will proceed to diagnosis to get clinical confirmation of what they may have already suspected about a patient’s condition. It usually involves collecting samples like blood, saliva, urine, stool, etc. In some cases, NPs consult with other healthcare experts over a patient’s case or order tests that they cannot complete themselves.
Developing and managing treatment plans
From prescribing medication to making ward rounds, the daily routine of an NP is also filled with treatment-related activities. After diagnosing patients, NPs can proceed to create and monitor treatment plans for them. They can also refer them to the right medical specialists and collaborate with other health experts to ensure patients’ best possible treatment outcome.
NPs work with their families, friends, and caregivers for patients receiving treatment at home to prevent any lapses in their recovery plans.
Educating and counselling patients
Besides the conversations during the initial consultation and ward rounds, NPs also hold other types of conversations with patients, including those advocating for positive lifestyle changes. NPs can discuss lifestyle and social issues with patients, their families, and members of the community at large, promoting healthy lifestyle choices and also helping them avoid preventable illnesses.
Supervising medical teams
Depending on their speciality and scope of practice, NPs can also take on supervisory roles, coordinating the activities of nurses and other medical experts in a facility. They can monitor for compliance, ensure smooth communication, and iron out misunderstandings and misrepresentations. They can also train interns and help recruits get to grips with their new jobs.
Performing administrative duties
One last common thread in an NP’s daily routine is administrative tasks. NPs tend to perform many different administrative tasks throughout their day, from organizing patient data to updating employee records, delegating responsibilities, developing and monitoring policy compliance, and managing supplies and inventories.
What are some common specialities of nurse practitioners?
As earlier said, the daily life of an NP is heavily influenced by their specialty. The degree of flexibility and autonomy heavily depends on their role in the healthcare system, their responsibilities, and their assigned tasks. NPs that enjoy some of the highest levels of autonomy include:
Family nurse practitioner
One of the most easily recognizable NP roles, a family nurse practitioner works with individuals and families in need of different levels of healthcare. They help develop and organize care plans for different members of a family. They also educate family members about healthier lifestyle choices.
Adult nurse practitioner
As the name suggests, this refers to nurse practitioners focused on health issues that affect adults. They interact regularly with adult patients, monitoring their treatment plans, prescribing medications, and also helping them stick to healthier lifestyle choices.
Geriatric nurse practitioner
Geared toward caregiving for the elderly, the geriatric NP has extensive training in the treatment and management of chronic illnesses and other age-related diseases.
They work in care homes, community centers, and assisted living facilities, monitoring patients’ vitals, prescribing medication, and collaborating with relevant healthcare experts to provide comprehensive patient care. They also work with patients’ families to ensure patients secure all their wellness needs, from dietary requirements to exercise and social needs.
Women’s health nurse practitioners
This group of NPs focuses on health challenges unique to women, from reproductive issues to gynecological challenges. They also work in a wide range of settings but are typically found in maternity clinics and other women-oriented facilities.
Acute care nurse practitioner
The daily life of an acute care nurse practitioner is usually more intense compared to others like family nurse practitioners and adult nurse practitioners. That’s because they deal mostly with emergencies and critical conditions. They handle patients who have been hospitalized with serious illnesses or those preparing for or recovering from surgery.
Occupational health nurse practitioners
You can find these types of NPs at organizations and businesses. They focus on work-related ailments and injuries, treating patients at their place of work or referring them to the appropriate experts. They also inform decision-makers about healthier workplace policies and educate employees on healthier workplace practices and lifestyle choices.
What are the requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner?
As per a recent report by US News & World Report, NP is one of the best healthcare job categories. The Bureau for Labor Statistics projects NP jobs to grow by an astounding 40% between 2019 and 2029.
However, the career prospects, including opportunities for upward mobility and nurse practitioner salary in Texas, mostly depend on your background and expertise, although your city of practice also has a slightly significant impact. A top-notch master’s in nursing practice (MNP) like that of Texas Woman’s University can equip aspiring NPs to maximize their career prospects.
Crafted with a track record of over 87 years of delivering exceptional academic experiences, the program is designed to expand the horizons of BSN-holding RNs. It features a holistic curriculum that equips students to serve in a wide range of NP roles with the highest clinical and professional standards today. In general, here are the key requirements needed in order to qualify for and excel in an NP role:
An advanced degree
A more advanced nursing role like that of an NP usually requires an advanced degree. You must first acquire a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or other similar B.Sc. and then become a registered nurse (RN) before you can qualify for advanced degree programs for NPs such as a Master’s in Nursing Practice (MNP).
If you’re starting from scratch, this journey might take up to six years—four years for the B.Sc. and then two years for the master’s or doctorate. However, some advanced programs accept students with a nursing diploma, which usually only takes 18–24 months, eliminating several years on their study path.
Certifications and licenses
After passing your degree exams, the next qualification step is obtaining relevant licenses and certifications. The most important certifications are those of the American Association of Practicing Nurses (AANP) and the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC). Note also that your specialty is a major determinant of the type of certification you must obtain.
Some states require additional certifications and licenses, such as a prescriptive authority license, which is required for NPs to be allowed to prescribe drugs, and a supervised or collaborative practice certification, which provides proof of adequate field experience. You can also opt for even more licenses and certifications for more career advancement opportunities to help you focus on rising up the ranks of a healthcare career.
Most employers require some degree of field experience. That means you might need to spend some time—at least a year—working as a registered nurse before you can land those higher-tier NP roles. Some programs offer practicums, but this is usually not a substitute for extensive real-life experience since they’re usually undertaken in a supervised and controlled environment.
Real-life experience throws you more curveballs and makes you better equipped to handle the nuances and uncertainties of real-life healthcare delivery. It also provides plenty of opportunities to cultivate both clinical skills like those for diagnosing and treating patients as well as other work-related skills such as good listening skills, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, interpersonal and communication skills, conflict resolution, keen attention to details, self-control, and self-care.
NP is a versatile, multi-dimensional profession. It’s an intermediary between junior and senior healthcare roles. An NP can serve as a nurse, a physician, a counselor, an administrator, and lots more. They can handle a wide variety of patients and work on medical teams in a multiplicity of settings.
Also, an NP career exposes you to high levels of upward mobility, as it is rife with opportunities for personal and professional growth. Every day presents new opportunities to meet new faces, touch the lives of people in a community, and cultivate your clinical and professional skills.