Nurse Practitioner Career Overview

Learn what you’ll do as a nurse practitioner and see if you have the right personality for the job.

Learn what you’ll do as a nurse practitioner and see if you have the right personality for the job.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who has earned at least a Master’s degree and completed additional training in a speciality area of medicine. Because of their advanced skills, NPs have more authority for administering patient care compared to Registered Nurses. For example, NPs can prescribe medication, administer physical exams, diagnose illnesses and provide advanced medical treatment similar to a doctor. While NPs have more authority than RNs and practice physican-level type care, some states require doctors supervise their patient care decisions.

What Traits Make a Good Nurse Practitioner?

You are… You should have…
Analytical Problem-solving skills
Compassionate Computer-savvy
Supportive Good decision-making skills
Dependable Good ethical standards
A clear communicator Critical thinking skills
Good-natured Good interpersonal relationship skills
An excellent listener

Nurse Practitioner Job Description

NPs are trained registered nurses who choose to continuously practice while they complete an advanced education.  NPs typically choose a core area of expertise and tend to take a more holistic and wellness-oriented approach to treatment through education and preventive care that lasts the entire life cycle. This makes them ideal choices as primary care providers for people of all ages and in all settings.

Typical Responsibilities of a Nurse Practitioner Include:

  • Diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, injuries and infections
  • Writing prescriptions for medications, including their dosage and frequency
  • Ordering and conducting diagnostic tests, like electrocardiograms (EKGs) and x-rays
  • Teaching patients about managing their health, make recommendations and design treatment plans
  • Examining and recording patient medical histories, symptoms and diagnoses
  • Providing guidance to patients about medications, side effects and interactions

The nurse practitioner profession can be a highly rewarding career with plenty of opportunities to help others and take on a much-needed role in the health care industry. Nurse practitioners have a lot of options these days from where they work to what they focus on. By helping to prevent disease and promote healthy living, nurse practitioners are referred to as true “Partners in Health” by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

In fact, nurse practitioners continue to move outside of the commonly considered work places and besides doctor’s offices and hospitals may be found in schools and clinics, birthing centers and even provide in-home health care services.

Nurse Practitioners Enjoy Career Flexibility

One great benefit of a nurse practitioner career is the ability to specialize within the field and work just about anywhere. Just as doctors and surgeons may have a specialty, an NP may also choose a focused group or practice area based upon their interest. There are some generally recognized, certified specialty areas to choose from—all of which require a Master’s of Nursing (MSN) to become an advanced practice nurse. Take a look at your focus options:

  • Pediatric Nurse–If you like working with children, you’ll work with patients from infancy to early adulthood and diagnose illnesses, conduct medical exams and help keep your young patients healthy through education and wellness practices.
  • Geriatric NP–As a geriatric NP you’ll focus your attention on the elderly and their needs and illnesses, which may include diabetes and respiratory ailments among others. You’ll also be instrumental in working with their families to counsel them in patient special needs, such as diet, medicines and exercise.
  • Neonatal NP–You’ll care for newborn infants as a neonatal NP. No matter whether the baby is healthy, premature or seriously ill, you’ll be part of the team tending to infant well-being, whether in standard care or ICU.
  • Acute Care Nurse–This fast-paced practice offers plenty of collaborative effort with doctors and other team members. You’ll administer advanced care to patients suffering severe illnesses of all types, and generally work in an emergency area, an ambulatory care clinic or a short term stay wing such as telemetry.
  • Occupational Health NP–As an OHNP you’ll bring your expertise to the job front and deliver health and safety programs to prevent illness, educate against injury and administer services to workers in any number of different workplaces.
  • Certified Nurse Midwife–You’ll not only be present for the birth of an infant but help manage all stages of a patient’s pregnancy. You’ll act as educator in the planning stages and offer support post-delivery for the myriad of issues new mothers and babies face.
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist–You’ll need to earn your MSN and pass a rigorous exam to become a CRNA, and you’ll also be able to work in a wide range of healthcare facilities. Your basic task, however, will be to administer the right amount of anesthesia to patients about to undertake a medical or surgical procedure, whether it be heart surgery or dental extraction.
  • Rural Nurse–Your duties are expansive as a rural NP as you will provide healthcare services to adults and children who have limited access to education and prevention of illness. You’ll treat chronic conditions as well, and you’ll be instrumental to serving as a teacher and mentor to rural nurses and their at-risk communities.

Become Part of an In-Demand Field

A recent article in Medscape reported that nurse practitioners received higher marks from patients than primary care physicians when it comes to screenings, assessments and follow-up exams. The most pertinent plus was the amount of time patients reported their NP spent with them as opposed to that of a medical doctor. Most said they “didn’t feel their nurse practitioner was rushing through their appointment or exam to get to the next one—and answered their questions,” helping to teach them holistically about the prevention of illness and the importance of healthcare maintenance.

A 2015 article in Forbes magazine titled, “Nurse Practitioners More in Demand than Most Physicians,” says that when hospitals or facilities in the healthcare system look to fill a vacancy in their medical staff, where at one time physicians were the hiring focus, the recruitment “gaze” has now landed upon nurse practitioners and physician assistants. In fact, while primary care physicians are recruiting target number one, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are target 1A, says AMN Healthcare subsidiary Merritt Hawkins, adding “you can’t really build patient access or patient satisfaction without them.”

Because of their popularity with patients and healthcare staff, NPs are much in demand not only to help the patient population, but to ease the burden on overtaxed physician time and expense.

Impressive Job Growth for Nurse Practitioners

As states change laws regarding advanced practice registered nurses, NPs are becoming more and more widely utilized as a source for primary healthcare, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact the BLS reports a whopping 31 percent job growth rate through 2026 for nurse practitioners, and estimates some 44,000 job openings in the field will occur. Considering that the average job growth rate for all other occupations combined is 7 percent for the same time period, the prospects for NPs is forecast to be excellent, especially for those choosing to practice in large inner cities or in remote rural areas, where medical doctors and healthcare treatment are at a premium.

Use our guide to nurse practitioner education and careers to answer your questions and get started on the path toward a fulfilling career helping patients and maximizing your success, by finding the right education program for you.

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