What is a Nurse Practitioner?

What is a nurse practitioner? This is a common question among nursing students who are yet to choose their areas of specialization. Nurse practitioners (NPs) and registered nurses (RNs) play different roles in a healthcare facility. This post will explore some of the roles of nurse practitioners, their salary, career outlook as well as how to become one.

Specific Roles of Nurse Practitioners

The specific roles of nurse practitioners include the following;

• Treating certain medical conditions and prescribing medication dosages.

• Ordering diagnostic tests and interpreting the results.

• Counseling patients and recommending interventions to modify certain behaviors associated with health risks.

• Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, injuries and infections.

• Detecting and treating adverse drug reactions, with more focus on vulnerable populations.

• Training patients on how to prevent or manage chronic illnesses.

• Establishing treatment plans based on standard care, scientific rationale and professional practice guidelines and ethics.

• Monitoring patients to determine their progress.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners perform more advanced duties when compared to registered nurses. As a result, healthcare facilities require those who apply for this position to hold advanced degrees, such as Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). They also require national certification as well as state’s Advanced Practice Registered Nurses(APRN) licensure.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program usually takes two to three years to complete. It covers courses in areas such as advanced pharmacology, health assessment and pathophysiology. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program features advanced courses in population health, leadership and research. If you are already employed as a registered nurse, you can choose to do these programs online. The online option will give you more time to study while you continue with your work.

When doing your graduate degree program, it is important you enroll in a program from an accredited institution. This is even more important if you are doing the course online. Check to see if the program is listed by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

In summary, here are the steps to becoming a nursing practitioner;

1. Graduate in high school and excel in courses like biology, chemistry, statistics and anatomy.

2. Enroll in a bachelor of science (BSN) or a related course for four years.

3. Become a registered nurse and garner at least one to two years of experience.

4. Pursue a graduate degree course in nursing, such as Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

5. Get certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.


According to PayScale, nurse practitioners earn an average salary of $91, 357 per year. The lowest-paid person gets $74,274 while the highest-paid gets $121,540.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 31 percent over the next 10 years. This rate is considered much faster than the national average and represents a lot of prospects for those who want to become nurse practitioners. The growth will be fueled by the increased emphasis on preventive care by the government as well as the increasing demand for quality healthcare by the aging population.

Nurse practitioners play a critical role in any healthcare facility. The items discussed above will give you some useful insights on what it means to be a nurse practitioner as well as how you can become one.