A nurse practitioner is an advanced degree nurse who has completed a Master's or a Doctoral degree. They have received additional training and education and have specialized in such areas as adult care, gynecology, obstetrics or family practice. In the United States in order to perform nursing jobs one must have passed national board certification. Not only can they apply for nurse practitioner jobs, they can seek seek positions in occupational therapy, physician assistant, travel nursing, physical therapy and speech pathology.
A nurse practitioner works independently from a physician in some parts of the United States. Their job can include diagnosing, evaluating and treating chronic and acute disease and illness such as high blood pressure, conducting physical exams and performing, ordering and interpreting lab test, x-rays and EKG's. They can prescribe rehabilitative treatments and drugs for acute illness, this can vary by state. They provide prenatal care, well-child care, assist in surgeries and counsel patients.
One must complete the training to become a registered nurse first and then complete graduate-level nursing courses. They must then pass a national board certification in their specialty. An associate degree in nursing, or ADN, is offered through community colleges and takes 2 to 3 years to complete. A bachelor of science degree in nursing, or BSN, is offered through colleges and universities and takes 4 to 5 years. Then they must complete a masters degree. The nurse practitioner degree program began in 1965 due to a prediction of a shortage of physicians. The nurse practitioner can commands a higher salary than a nurse and is in great demand.
With a position in a women's health clinic, a nurse practitioner can provide women's wellness care. This includes counseling on birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and providing breast and pelvic exams. Some practitioners get further training to become nurse midwives. A certified nurse midwife can provide prenatal and postnatal care as well as assist in uncomplicated pregnancies through labor and delivery.
In primary care, they can work with both pediatric and adult patients. They can provide preventative care and check-ups and treat minor emergencies as well as treat patients with acute illnesses. They can practice in a private practice in a setting known as nurse-managed health centers. These centers employ only nurse practitioners rather than doctors or physicians' assistants to provide primary care. These centers are often located in underserved areas and will typically provide mental health care as well as physical care.
Geriatric clinics are settings where nurses are also employed. They provide care for older adults in managing chronic conditions such as arthritis, hypertension and diabetes. This type of health care involves case management and coordinating care.
Another setting for a nurse practitioner to work is a hospital. There they can diagnose patients, order medications and tests and help to determine discharge dates. In teaching hospitals acute care nurses are often involved in teaching new doctors in their first years of residency.
In mental healthcare a nurse can work with outpatients, inpatients or partial hospitalization settings. They can diagnose patients and prescribe medication. Complying with a medication regimen can often be problematic with these patients so a nurse practitioner can provide patient teaching to teach about side effects and how to use self-help tools to manage symptoms as well as finding support through their communities.