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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If a person is asked what a typical nurse does, he or she will probably answer: helps a doctor, checks on patients or changes the bedding. The answer may not be ideal, but nurses are actually some of the most important individuals involved in our health care system. Without these medical professionals, we are in a world of hurt. They pour in hours of extreme effort, dedication, and compassion to make sure we’re healthy.

One doesn’t just become a professional nurse, however. There are many levels to the profession. One of the highest tier positions you can aspire to be is a nurse practitioner.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), is an accomplished nurse who holds a master’s degree in advanced nursing. A nurse practitioner is someone who has earned a master’s through a Master’s of Science in Nursing through a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

With those in mind, know that nurse practitioners have a fantastic amount of freedom in the workplace, something earned through years of study.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

With this list of educational credentials, it’s hardly surprising that nurse practitioners hold much more sway in medical environments.

Nurse practitioners use their education to focus on specific populations of patients at a primary care facility or hospital. Some are even enlisted to work with patients off site.

Diagnose Diseases

Like doctors, nurse practitioners can meet with patients, consult with them, and diagnose health problems.

Prescribe Medication

Through extensive study programs, nurse practitioners earn the unique ability to check patients, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medication. The main benefit is that they can do these actions independently of doctors. This responsibility is a valuable benefit, as it provides quality health care to a patient without them needing a visit to a physician.

Specialize in Various Medical Fields

Becoming a nurse practitioner doesn’t limit you to general medicine. While in school, the future nurse practitioner usually specializes in a specific field of study. One of the most popular choices they take is the family nurse practitioner specialization.

Other fields of medicine they can choose from are:

  • Allergies
  • Immunology
  • Dermatology
  • Gerontology
  • Hospice
  • Holistic
  • Emergency Rooms
  • Pediatrics
  • Gastroenterology
  • Surgical
  • Sports medicine
  • Pulmonology and respiratory
  • Occupational
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cardiology
  • Travel

Essential Nurse Practitioner Skills

Deep Knowledge of Medicine

Along with nurses dedicating themselves to helping people, they also need to have a familiar and intimate grasp of diseases, bodily malfunctions, and disabilities. They can major in specific areas like gerontology and pediatrics. Regardless of a nurse practitioner’s choice, knowing the ins and outs of their specified field makes all the world’s difference.

A Good Bedside Manner

Although an effective MSN program can’t necessarily teach manners, knowing how to politely deal with patients is a vital aspect of nursing. A good bedside manner can go a long way towards helping people. Whether you are a family nurse practitioner or a gerontology expert, knowing how to listen and showing empathy help everyone. Having a caring manner can mean a world of difference in someone’s arduous journey back to perfect health.

A Lot of Patience

You need a ton of patience to go to school, get your RN license, and master your APRN exam. Along with an extensive, and often rigorous education process, nurse practitioners are on the front line of healthcare. They make up key staff at hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician offices, and educational settings.

Nurse practitioners deal with people in extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable states, and many of which will need long term care. The nurse practitioner, along with a caring and decent bedside manner, must exhibit patience, grace, and compassion towards those they treat.

Nurse Practitioner Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $115,800 per year or $55.67 per hour. This six-figure salary reflects the hard work a nurse practitioner has put into their education and training.

Nurse anesthetists, in particular, earned a median pay of $174,790 in 2019.

No matter where the nurse practitioner works, they earn well over $100,000. The highest pay rate is in hospitals with $122,420 in 2019.

Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

The positive job outlook is where the benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner come in. If you are a nursing student on the fence about becoming a nurse practitioner, the job outlook alone could convince you to enter an MSN program.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth of nurse practitioners’ field will be a fast rate of 26%. This significant increase is almost unheard of in nearly every occupation listed. Even the most in-demand careers don’t experience projected increases this significant.

Also, nearly a quarter of a million jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will become available annually.

There will always be a crucial need for nurse practitioners. With their expertise on specific subsets of the population, they can offer a lot to the world. This has become even more clear with the rise of COVID-19. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners have become an invaluable resource in combating and understanding deadly illnesses, aging, death, and more.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner can take somewhere from six to eight years. These years of education include all the training and schooling needed. While it may seem like a lot, let's break down what it takes to become a nurse practitioner.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: Step by Step

Now that you have made up your mind, you have to take the first step to becoming a nurse professional. The path forward may seem daunting, but your determination guarantees the success you have in achieving your goal.

Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Beforehand, consider earning your bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to lay a good nursing knowledge foundation. Some things bachelor’s degrees can help you nail down are:

  • Professional nursing
  • Health assessment
  • Family nursing
  • Leadership
  • Surgical care
  • Nursing management
  • Public health
  • Psychosocial nursing

These bachelor’s degrees also offer a ton of options for transitioning into more advanced nursing programs.

RN-to-BSN and LPN-to-BSN programs offer licensed practical nurses the option to complete a bachelor’s of science in an accelerated manner. These unique programs often award them their degree in two years.

Step 2: Earn Your Registered Nurse (RN) License

You have to go through a registered nurse program. It usually takes approximately two to four years to earn your RN license.

Step 3: Enroll in an MSN Program

After that, enroll in an MSN program. Earning your master’s degree takes two to four years. You do this at a wide variety of different schools. Earning a master of science in nursing will be a difficult road, but well worth the effort.

Step 4: Take and Pass the APRN Certification Exam

Taking your APRN certification exam is what all your effort comes down to. Prove your skills on the APRN certification exam. These exams are challenging, even to the most seasoned practical nurses and those with fantastic nursing educations. You do this through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

The base requirements for the exam require the individual to have a master’s degree and at least 500 hours in a clinical setting to exhibit their nursing expertise.

Should You Become a Nurse Practitioner in 2020?

The answer is unequivocally yes. A combination of a stellar salary, and unprecedented job growth, becoming a nurse practitioner is a solid career choice.

While the education requirements, like becoming a doctor of nursing practice, may be somewhat intimidating, the payoff is well worth the effort. Practical nurses, registered nurses, and others all have the opportunity to break through to become accomplished advanced nursing practitioners. Without the expertise and dedication of nurse practitioners, the health care industry would be sorely lacking.


Can nurse practitioners prescribe medication?
Yes, NPs are authorized to prescribe a wide variety of medications for patients, even controlled substances. Along with prescribing medications, nurse practitioners can also sign death certificates and perform telehealth duties.
Can a family nurse practitioner work independently?
Out of the 50 American states, 23 allow for the complete autonomy of nurse practitioners. These growing liberties mean that a nurse practitioner doesn’t answer to a higher-ranked physician.
Are nurse practitioners technically doctors?
Since nurse practitioners need to become a doctor of nursing practice, they are technically doctors. Yet, nurse practitioners mainly prefer to forgo this high rank. They will inform the patient that they are first and foremost, a nurse.
Do nurse practitioners make more than other nurses?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners make a significant amount of money. Registered nurses make about $45,000 less than their nurse practitioner counterparts.
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