Situated between the rank of a registered nurse (RN) and a doctor lies the nurse practitioner (NP), whose duties go beyond those of a typical nurse. He or she has more authority over patient care, which includes prescribing medication, conducting physical appointments, ordering diagnostic tests such as x-rays, and other tasks similar to those of a primary care physician. In some states, the position functions almost like a primary care doctor, in others, the NP is under close supervision. Nurse practitioners can be found in a variety of locations, from primary care physician offices to schools. Some even provide their services in their patients’ homes. There are also multiple different specialties. These include Family NPs, Geriatric NPs, Adult NPs, Pediatric NPs, among others. They are widely considered to be a good choice for primary care, as they take a holistic approach to treatment through preventative care and education, as well as wellness training.
With an average salary of $90k, a nurse practitioner position is an attractive option for registered nurses or licensed practical nurses (LPN) who wish to get a leg up on their career. An NP makes double an LPN’s salary and about one-third more than an RN’s. To become an NP, one must obtain a master’s in nursing. The simplest path is to become an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. It is a bit more difficult for LPNs to achieve this, but luckily there are a few alternative bridge programs available. In one rigorous process, the RN-to-MSN programs help those in the nursing profession to become RNs, then obtain a master’s in nursing. Another possibility is an ADN-to-MSN (associate’s degree in nursing to master’s in nursing). This is a convenient option for LPNs in particular, who often have only completed a two-year program. Though becoming a registered nurse is preferred, the path to earning the title of a nurse practitioner is accessible to most in the nursing field.
There are several reasons why becoming a nurse practitioner is an idea worth considering. Beyond the higher salary and specialty options, it is also in growing demand. Due to our aging population, the profession is expected to expand 35% by 2024. To meet this increasing demand for care, healthcare is in dire need of positions to fill. These patients’ needs will need to be fulfilled not only in the doctor’s office but in the home and other locations as well. Nurse practitioners are perfectly suited to account for these specific needs.