Nurse practitioners are registered professional nurses who have completed a graduate education program in advanced practice nursing. They provide many of the same services as physicians. A major focus for the nurse practitioner is the promotion of healthy lifestyles to prevent illness. Nurse practitioners can also diagnose and treat common minor health problems as well as chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. They order laboratory tests, prescribe medications, and prescribe various treatments. Studies have shown that they provide cost-effective and high quality care. Although some nurse practitioners practice in hospitals, most work in clinics. Many provide health care to those who may not otherwise have access to care, such as in rural areas, community clinics, shelters, schools, and other settings.
Nurse practitioners must complete a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing and must have experience working as a registered nurse. The graduate nurse practitioner education program takes approximately two years to complete. Graduate study includes nursing coursework as well as advanced study in performing physical examinations, diagnosis, and treatment. The student also has hands-on education with a nurse practitioner and/or a physician preceptor in a clinic or other health care facility.
Students can choose from several specialty areas of study. Some of these specialties include family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult nurse practitioner (ANP), geriatric nurse practitioner (GNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), and women's health care nurse practitioner (WHCNP).
Students interested in becoming a nurse practitioner would benefit by taking high school sciences and the required college level prerequisites for nursing school. Spending time with a nurse practitioner and working or volunteering in any type of health care service organization is also suggested.
In 1990 nurse practitioners numbered 28,600. In 2000 nearly 70,000 existed, and it was predicted that there would be 116,000 by 2005.
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. <http://www.aanp.org/> .