Nurse Practitioner Archive

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are at the top of the nursing profession and are in great demand within all healthcare settings. This career offers challenging work, leadership opportunities, and high earnings potential.


What is a Nurse Practitioner?

An Advanced nurse practitioner (APRN) possesses some of the most advanced education available within the nursing field. Nurse practitioners provide direct patient care for both chronic and acute medical conditions with a primary focus on health prevention and promotion. In some states, nurse practitioners are provided with prescriptive authority allowing them to provide a full range of patient care services.

Areas of advanced Practice Nursing include: Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner Clinical Nurse Specialist Nurse Midwife Each specialty area noted above requires advanced graduate education, along with extensive clinical training.  The advanced education and training of nurse practitioners prepares them provide direct care to a broad spectrum of the patient population, as well as promote health prevention and wellness activities.

Graduates of Nurse Specialist Programs are in Demand

The health care industry is growing at a pace that far outstrips the number of new physicians graduating from medical school, thereby creating a severe shortage of trained professionals At the same time, there are fewer students electing to pursue a nursing career. This combined with the large number of nurses who are leaving the profession due to retirement or a change of career, is creating a serious nursing shortage as well.

As a result, there has never been a better time to become an advanced nurse practitioner! The shortage of doctors and nurses means that advanced nurse practitioners are in great demand and are well compensated for their knowledge and skills. To become an advanced nurse practitioner you must be a registered nurse (RN) and obtain a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program.

Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements – How Long Does it take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Arising from the degree of responsibility they hold, the complexity of patient care they provide and the degree of autonomy they are able to assume with regard to patient care, it is essential that nurse practitioners participate in a rigorous education with extensive clinical training of 500 hours or more. Nursing candidates will also need to pass the National Council Licensure exam (NCLEX-RN) administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

These exams are administered several times per year in every state, with many specialty area examinations available online.  Current national specialty certification is required for continued approval to practice as an Advanced Practice Nurse APN) in many states. In order to obtain full licensure, graduates are required to submit official transcripts directly from the institution to their State Board of Nursing. On-going educational and professional development is required for continued practice and for renewal of the APRN license.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

There are several areas in which advanced practice nurse may specialize. When you specialize, the majority of your coursework will focus on the area of practice you choose and you will be required to pass a specialty examination as the capstone experience of your graduate study.

Family Nurse Practitioner Program

A nurse specialist program as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) prepares nurses to provide care to families in various types of healthcare facilities (e.g. hospitals, private offices, community clinics). During this program, the nursing student will study such subjects as reproductive health, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, geriatric care, and adult health. Students will develop competencies in diagnostics and primary patient care. Family nurse practitioner programs teach the following skills:

  • Physical examination and assessment
  • Management and coordination of medical services
  • Educational and therapeutic treatment planning
  • Referral to appropriate health care providers
  • Documentation of family health and medical history

Graduates of FNP master’s programs are eligible to sit for a certification exam administered by the American Nurses Association/American Nurses Credentialing Center. (ANA/ANCC). Graduates may find employment in medical centers, rehabilitation hospitals, private physician offices, community clinics, nursing homes, among other settings.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Graduate programs in pediatric nursing provide students with the skills and knowledge to care for infants, children and adolescents up to age 12.  The PNP program of study has an emphasis on assessment and evaluation, treatment planning, preventative health, and diagnosis.

Graduates of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs are eligible to pursue certification by passing an specialty examination administered by the ANCC. A graduate may also be eligible for prescriptive authority based on the state in which s/he will practice. Places of employment include medical centers, rehabilitation hospitals, home health agencies, and private physician offices.

Adult Nurse Practitioner Program (ANP)

The Adult Nurse Practitioner program teaches advanced practice nurses to care for individuals and families ages 12 years and older in a variety of healthcare settings. The focus of this program is on assessment, diagnosis, and management of chronic and acute medical conditions, health prevention, and wellness promotion. Students are taught how to tap into resources to provide a high standard of care and how to collaborate with other members of the healthcare team.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Program (ONP)

An oncology nurse practitioner program provides education in disease management, medical ethics and cancer research. Many programs also include courses in palliative care and community-based nursing. Courses in an oncology nurse practitioner program typically include:

  • Assessment and treatment planning
  • Symptom management and cancer care
  • Cellular Pathophysiology
  • Genetic Influences of cancer
  • Epidemiology (incidence of cancer in the population)
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Health care policy and issues


Clinical Nurse Specialist Program

The primary purpose of a master’s program with a focus in the area of Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist is to build the knowledge and skill necessary to perform as a professional clinical and patient advocate within the adult patient population. Upon graduation, clinical nurse specialists will be able to work with adult patients in such areas as assessment and evaluation, diagnosis, treatment planning, health promotion and prevention and, in some states, prescribing needed medications. Check with your State Board of Nursing (BON) to determine whether your state provides prescriptive authority for nurses. 

You may find contact information for your State BON on the Web site of the NCSNB (NCSBN.org). Students are also taught the roles of educator (to nursing and healthcare staff, as well as students), researchers, consultants, and are expected to become leaders in the field able to develop and implement systems to enhance the overall standards of patient care. The primary emphasis of this master’s program is to educate students with regard to advanced nursing theory and practice, as well as leadership and management of complex healthcare systems.

Nurse Midwifery Program

A master’s degree in midwifery will require between 500 and 900 hours of clinical midwifery training. Most master’s programs focus provide a clinical rotation that focus on developing student’s competency in the areas of gynecology, and postpartum, intrapartum, and prenatal care. Although students may complete a number of clinical hours as part of their masters program, the bylaws of many hospitals mandate that 20 to 50 deliveries be performed under the supervision of a physician within a hospital setting.