Nationwide, almost 80 million people lack access to primary care. What’s more, the US population with its large baby boomer generation is aging rapidly, driving an increasing need for health services.
As healthcare professionals serving patients of every age, nurse practitioners, or NPs, are critical in ensuring that all members of our nation have access to quality health care. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, over 1 billion visits are made to NPs each year, with 270,000 licensed nurse practitioners currently providing primary, acute, and specialty care to patients across the country.
What Nurse Practitioners Do
Nurse practitioners provide a full range of care services to patients, including:
- Recording patient information such as medical history and symptoms
- Performing physical exams
- Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Diagnosing and treating diverse acute and chronic health problems
- Prescribing and administering medications and treatments
- Creating, contributing to, and managing patient care plans
Nurse practitioners are also skilled at integrating health promotion, disease prevention, counseling, and education into patient visits to help individuals (and their families) better understand their health. By doing so, they empower patients to make choices that lead to longer, healthier lives.
Where Nurse Practitioners Work
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most nurse practitioners work in private offices. They also commonly see patients in hospitals, schools, patients’ homes, long-term care facilities, outpatient care centers (like clinics, urgent care centers, and surgery centers), and many other healthcare settings. Many NPs work independently, but all nurse practitioners consult with physicians and other health professionals when needed to support their patients.
Some NPs specialize in caring for specific populations, such as children, adults, seniors, or mental health patients, while others, such as family nurse practitioners, see families and individual patients across their lifespan.
Nurse practitioners are in demand across the country, but especially in medically underserved areas, including rural towns and inner cities.
The Benefits of Nurse Practitioner Care
Nurse practitioners are highly skilled professionals with advanced education and clinical training beyond the training required to become a registered nurse. More than five decades of healthcare studies have shown the quality and effectiveness of care provided by NPs, including high patient satisfaction rates and outstanding health outcomes.
For example, research has found that patients with NP primary care providers have fewer emergency room visits and shorter hospital stays. These benefits, together with a nurse practitioner’s focus on patient education and overall health, typically also lower out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for patients.
Nurse Practitioner Requirements & Education
To become a nurse practitioner, you must first become an RN by completing an undergraduate nursing program, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and meeting state licensure requirements. After that, you must complete at least a master’s level nursing program and pass a national nurse practitioner certification exam.
Depending on your academic background, there are various options available for nurse practitioner master’s programs. For example, at South College, we’re proud to help RNs build on their existing knowledge through our Master of Science in Nursing with a Concentration in Family Nurse Practitioner with three possible academic tracks:
- BSN-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner track for RNs who already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Accelerated RN-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner track, which is the fastest route for RNs without a BSN
- RN-BSN-MSN track for RNs who want to earn both a BSN and MSN
Every track in the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner degree program equips our students with the advanced critical thinking, interpersonal, and technical skills needed to provide high-quality patient care, as well as prepares them for lifelong professional growth throughout their nursing careers.
To learn more about how we can help you prepare for this rewarding and incredibly important career, request information or contact us today!