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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a nurse practitioner? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements needed to become a nurse practitioner.

The goal of every human is to have a job they would be earning from; this is either professional or non-professional, as long as they make both ends meet. Those who are going to school to garner knowledge and obtain a formal qualification are doing so to have a sumptuous occupation, and the other people that are busy in a vocational training, though informal education are also doing so just to have a job.

However, the job of a Nurse practitioner is a professional occupation that requires the practitioner to have acquired some nursing knowledge through a formal education before he could practice the profession. The profession of a nurse practitioner does not have any other place for its propagation apart from the hospital, although it is not only a nurse that works in a hospital.

Many people are of the opinion that the job of a nurse practitioner is restricted to the female gender but the truth of it is that the job is meant for both genders. Either male or female, you have the potential to become a better nurse, so far you have the passion for the job and ready to pursue the course by attaining the required knowledge expected of a certified nurse.

The drive to be healthy and free from any kind of disease and illness has made people to patronize a hospital where a professional certified nurse works. And this is a singular reason why the need for nurse practitioners has been on the increase. Being a professional nurse practitioner is a very good career for every human, but there is need to know what the profession really entails.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a professional health specialist that specializes in the work of attending to patient in a hospital or health care. A nurse has various works he does in a hospital; he cares for patient who are suffering from a variety of health challenges, ranging from minor illness and accidents, to severe and long term diseases and illness.

He promotes excellent well-being of people in the community by educating people on various health topics geared at making them to be health conscious. A nurse practitioner must have acquired the knowledge and some clinical skills that would enable him or her to work in a hospital as a professional and registered nurse, before he could be employed as a nurse practitioner.

A nurse practitioner has various places where he could carry out his work. He could work majorly in a hospital, community health centre, residential homes, specialist units, schools and health department of various organizations and companies. After acquiring basic education and adequate knowledge, a nurse practitioner can specializes in diverse areas like; dermatology, orthopedics, adult’s health, children’s health, cardiology and other health specialties.

In some countries like America, nurse works hand in hand with a doctor. They work under the supervision of a physician but there are still some cases of advanced countries of the world, United State of America for example; where nurses works independently at times without any necessary supervision from a physician. However, to achieve the best health attention needed by the patient, it is important that the nurse works with a physician and other medical practitioners like, the pharmacist, surgical specialist, physical therapist, social workers and other healthcare professionals.

Duties of a Nurse Practitioner and their Job Description

The role of a nurse practitioner is a clear job that is unavoidable and cannot be substituted in a health care industry. A nurse practitioner doesn’t work on any other people, apart from the patient that have one medical challenge or the other.

A nurse practitioner distinguishes himself in the medical field with some well defined duties. Although, the duties of a nurse practitioners varies with the field where they are expert at, but the core roles and responsibilities of a professional nurse includes the following:

a. Registration-: The first thing a nurse practitioner does for any patient that patronizes his healthcare is registration. This is a process whereby the nurse collects the identity and necessary information about the client for documentation, before issuing the healthcare’s patient identity card to the patient. This identity card is what the patient keeps for subsequent visits to the care provider.

During this registration, the nurse practitioner will not only issue an identity card to the patient but also open a file for the client, where he will document some vital information about the client. It is of utmost importance for a nurse to register a patient before taking any other step in administering treatment.

b. Observing-: After collecting all the necessary details of a client for registration, the first major job a professional nurse practitioner performs on the client is to first of all carry out a thorough observation on the patient. A nurse will take his time to observe some visible traits and character of the patient, even before going ahead to perform any test on the patient.

By merely observing the patient, a nurse can even deduce and confirm the nature and type of illness a patient is suffering from. For instance; a nurse practitioner can get to know of a patient suffering from headache, even by putting his hand on the patient’s body to observe the patient’s temperature. It is very important for a nurse practitioner to observe his patient.

c. Diagnosis-: After observing the observable trait of a patient, the nurse practitioner will now proceed into the next step which is diagnosis. This is a process whereby the nurse will examine the symptoms of the illness troubling the patient. A nurse practitioner will be able to identify the nature of the illness troubling his client through diagnosis.

During observation, the nurse practitioner might not be able to validate the exact disease or illness his client is battling with, but in the course of diagnosing, the disease will be visible to the nurse and he will be able to distinguish and be precise of the actual illness the client is having.

It is very important to diagnose a patient that comes to a healthcare, so that the nurse won’t be treating a hypothetical disease, instead of the real and factual illness combating the patient.

d. Recording: This is another role of a nurse practitioner that involves writing and documentation. This one is quite different from the first role of a nurse practitioner, which is registration, although both involve writing. Recording is otherwise known as a phenomenon whereby the nurse practitioner writes than the already diagnosed traits and symptoms of illness his client his suffering from. The nurse will record the conditions of the patient during this process.

e. Treating-: After diagnosing to ascertain the particular disease and illness a patient is suffering from and after recording it down, the nurse practitioner will now go ahead to give means of treating the patient. Once the disease and illness is visible to the nurse, he now formulates means by which he can treat the patient and make him healthy and fully recuperated from any disease whatsoever tormenting his healthiness.

In the course of treating the patient, the nurse practitioner can administer drugs to his patient if the illness is not chronic and for special cases, whereby a patient might be suffering from a severe and chronic disease, a nurse can perform surgical operation on the patient.

f. Educating-: Apart from the fundamental duties of a nurse listed above, a nurse practitioner also indulges in the act of educating the patient and even healthy people that are not suffering from any illness in the community. The nurse practitioner will educate the patient about some particular thing he needs to know after treating him. He will also let him know of the causes of the illness or disease he curbed and he will educate him on how to be conscious in order to curb the re-occurrence of such disease.

g. Follow up-: This has to do with following up a patient from where the doctor has left off. For instance; a doctor may be off duty after giving patients some medications. It is therefore the duty of the nurse to step in and hold things up for the doctor. This is until he or she gets back, or until some other doctor takes over.

The nurse practitioner will as well educate the healthy people on how to be conscious of some diseases that are in the environment, how to protect themselves against some diseases. Apart from the above notable duties of a nurse practitioner, a nurse practitioner also performs some other functions as directed by her superior.

Tools of the Trade for a Nurse Practitioner

Carrying out ones daily duties in a profession is key to the growth of the profession, as well as the salary being earned for it. There is no profession that doesn’t have tools or equipment to carry out the profession. The profession of a nurse practitioner also has some basic tools the practitioner must get before he can practice the profession efficiently.

It is extremely important for a nurse to have some essential equipment that would enable him work comfortably in a healthcare setting. Below is a list of some of the most common equipment nurse practitioner uses at healthcare centers:

i. Uniform-: The uniform of a nurse practitioner, otherwise known as scrub is the first major equipment a nurse practitioner must have before he can work as a nurse practitioner. However, a specialized uniform of a nurse consists of a dress, apron and a cap. The uniform is a necessary clothe a nurse practitioner often wear majorly for hygiene and identification in a healthcare. A nurse cannot wear any other clothe in a healthcare apart from this special uniform called scrub.

ii. Handbook-: This is otherwise known as the nurse dictionary; as it serves as guide to a nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner uses this handbook as the basic guideline to adhere to. In healthcare settings and some major medical procedures inside this handbook helps in equipping the nurse with some necessary knowledge.

A good handbook will enable the nurse to understand the proper use of drugs/medications and practices that would improve the patient care. Many nurses carry their handbook around, as it even serves as a reference book for them to consult to remember useful healthcare information and instructions.

iii. Stethoscope-: This is medical equipment that was invented by a French physician in the early 1880’s. It consists of a diaphragm or open bell-shaped structure that is always applied to the body, it is connected by rubber or plastic tubes earpieces that the nurse can put in his air to examine the patient. Stethoscopes are extremely sensitive electronic materials that are always available in healthcare centers for nurses and physician to use on patients.

A nurse practitioner can access a patient’s respiratory, intestinal and cardiac state by using a stethoscope. A stethoscope is a very important tool in a healthcare and it can also be used in monitoring a patient’s blood pressure.

iv. Thermometer-: Thermometer is portable equipment a nurse can use to quickly check the temperature of a patient. An accurate thermometer can allow the nurse to quickly diagnose the potential disease or illness a patient is suffering from.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner – A Complete Guide

  • Labor Market for Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a nurse practitioner might be tiring or not encouraging, as many people are of the opinion that nurses are underrated and inferior, especially when compared with a physician. In fact, some people see nurses as junior staffs in medical centre settings. However, the role of a nurse practitioner cannot be over-emphasized in our society, especially now that nurses are independent in some advanced countries like America.

Research show that the whole world is in need and employing the services of nurse practitioners than any other medical related professions. The craze for the services of nurse practitioners nationwide is due to the versatility and professionalism of the practitioners and this has resulted into the exponential increment of nurse practitioners that are gainfully employed.

With the sky rocketing increase in the population of people in countries like America, Canada and Australia, coupled with the limited enrolment of people in nursing courses and schools, the career of nurse practitioner is having high demand and there is low number of nurse practitioners, compared to the labor demand. Pursuing the path of becoming a nurse practitioner might be daunting, but there is tendency of securing a good job with top-notch salary later on.

Impact of the Internet and Technology on the Profession of Nurse Practitioner

There is no doubting the point that we are now in the computer age where every professional practitioner strives hard to adopt the usage of Internet and Technology. Nonetheless, the nurse practitioners are also not relenting on their effort, as they have also embraced the usage of internet facilities to strengthen the profession.

The impact of internet and technology on nurse profession is enormous, as practitioners are now able to easily access the internet to research findings about any disease or illness that might be troubling the patient. According to a survey of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, more than 98 percent of nurses responded they use the internet, this is as a result of the positive impact the internet have on profession and the practitioners.

Professional Bodies and Associations You Must Join to be Recognized as a Nurse Practitioner

There is always a need to register with a regulatory body when you are practicing a profession; even the businesses that require little or no formal education also have a regulatory body. Here are some of the professional bodies and association you will need to be part of before you could be certify as a professional nurse practitioner:

  • American Nurses Association
  • Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses
  • American Academy of Nursing
  • National League of Nursing
  • National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Emergency Nursing Research Society
  • Respiratory Nursing Society
  • The American Association of Nurse Attorneys
  • International Council of Nurses
  • Nursing Organization Liaison Forum

Career ideas/Sub-Sectors That Exist Within the Nursing Profession

The nursing career is no doubt serving as a source of living for many people and this is because of the very large market and demand for nurse practitioners. However, here are some career and aspect that a professional nurse practitioner can specialize in:

  • Cardiac care nurse
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Dermatology nurse
  • Diabetes nurse
  • Domestic violence nurse
  • Emergency nurse
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Labor and delivery nurse
  • Military nurse
  • Orthopedics nurse
  • School nurse
  • Radiology nurse

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming Nurse Practitioners

All profession has its own fair share of challenges. However, the challenges might not be similar; whilst some are very insignificant challenges, yet others appear really bogus. It is for this reason that the challenges/factors discouraging people from becoming nurse practitioners vary and are wide in a scope; they include but are not limited to the following:

  • Decline in the number of practitioners-: The number of nurse practitioners is indeed on a decline and what this means is that only the few nurse practitioners are to train other upcoming practitioners. This indeed result in many would-be nurse practitioners shying away from the profession, as they might either not receive the necessary tutelage/training they need, since manpower is short in many countries.
  • Internal challenges-: There are many internal challenges which force many would-be nurse practitioners to leave the profession for good. These challenges which range from the profession itself, and the educational organizations responsible for preparing them for practice. This could also be attributed the lack of adequate facilities/faculties to take care of the growing number of applicants who are unable to get admitted because of limited faculty resources.
  • External challenges-: The primary challenge facing the profession externally which discourages people from joining it is the limited number of clinical sites available and preceptors. This poses a great challenge, as even those who qualify as nurse practitioners are unable to practice efficiently.
  • Duration of study-: As has been stated earlier, it takes at least ten years before someone can become a successful Nurse Practitioner. Therefore many persons are discouraged from the profession because of the length of time it takes them before they become successful nurse practitioners.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Earn?

Nurse practitioners are one of the highest paid professionals in the world. However, their salaries vary from country to country. Here are a few instances as it concerns the various countries ion focus;

  • In the United States-: The bureau of labor statistics reported in May 2013 that the annual mean salary of Nurse practitioners in the United States is $95,070. This is instructive since the BLS lists the following states in the U.S as having the highest mean annual wages for nurse practitioners. They include: Alaska at $111,800, California at $110,590, Oregon at $107,560, Hawaii at $106,770, and Massachusetts at $105,010.
  • In Australia-: The case is not quite different in Australia as nurse practitioners earn a basic salary ranging from AU$71,469 and AU$100,803. Also they can receive up to AU$1,277 to AU$11,000 as bonuses and allowances annually.
  • In Canada-: Nurse practitioners in Canada earn an annual basic salary, which ranges from C$42,500-C$103,153. They can also earn up to C$14,658 as bonuses in a year. It is also instructive to state that in Canada, the average salary depends on the number of years of experience one has. Thus, if you have one year experience, your average annual salary will be C$45,769-C$88,563, while if you have 5-9 years of experience it can extend to C$68,986-C$93,483 annually.
  • In the United Kingdom-: Nurse practitioners in the United Kingdom earn well just like their counterparts in other parts of the world. The average salary for a nurse practitioner ranges from 13,281-40,651 pounds. Although, they receive an annual bonus that can be as much as 302.01 pounds

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner may take up to ten years at the minimum. This is because Nurse practitioners are specialists who have undergone series of trainings and must have acquired relevant experiences over the years. The breakdown of the number of years is as follows:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing science which can take up to 4 years.
  • Obtaining a state license as a registered nurse, which requires one to take and pass the qualifying exams for it; this could take up to six months.
  • Choosing a specialty and gaining experience in it; and this could take up to two years before someone can be a specialist in a particular chosen field.
  • Earning a nurse practitioner masters degree from an accredited program. This could take up to three years before it can be obtained.
  • Applying for certification also gulps time. Graduates of accredited nursing degrees are expected to apply for certifications before they can become nursing practitioners, this may take up to six months before it can be obtained.

Generally, it takes a person about ten years before you can finally become a nurse practitioner if you started the journey.

Educational Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner

The educational requirement to become a nurse practitioner is similar in many countries. But the basic educational requirements in the United States, Australia, Canada and UK are as follows:

  • Students with a high school diploma usually study for a registered nurse certification or a degree in nursing.
  • After the completion of the degree program, students must first obtain the RN certification, and enroll in masters of Science in nursing program.
  • The students while undergoing the masters in nursing program, is to specialize in either of the following: immunology, microbiology, pathology, pediatrics’, emergency treatment, infusion, maternal and neonatal cares etc.

Certifications Required to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

Just like with other professionals, becoming a certified Nurse practitioner requires some certifications most especially in the United States. The certifications required in becoming a nurse practitioner in the United States and the processes which lead to it are as follows:

  • Educational courses in the field of nursing
  • A degree which ranges from associates, bachelors, masters till the doctorate in Nursing could be helpful
  • Sitting for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) at various qualification levels which ultimately certifies one as a nurse practitioner in the United States.

Can You Become a Nurse Practitioner by Taking Online Courses?

Yes, you can certainly become a nurse practitioner by taking online courses. Since the world today has become a global village, interested persons in the nursing practitioner profession can become one by enrolling in one of the online courses that has thus been provided. The American Nursing Association (ANA) and the American Nurses Credentialing Centre (ANCC) provides these online windows for people to ensure that they get the necessary certifications with a click of a button.

In addition, these associations maintain a list of schools that offer the required training for nurse practitioners. The advantages of these online courses cannot be over-emphasized, as they are not only ideal for working professionals who wish to enhance their career opportunities, but also for students who might be enrolled in other courses as well. Therefore, one peculiarity of the online programs is that it is charged at lower costs as compared to traditional colleges.

What Industries Can a Nurse Practitioner Can Work in?

A nurse practitioner is a practitioner for all. This is so because the nurse practitioner has a wide range of industries where he/she can successfully work in. thus, the following are perfect industries in which a nurse practitioner can work in, they include:

  • Hospitals
  • Local government body
  • Government owned medical establishments
  • Pediatrics
  • Family care units
  • Neonatal care units
  • Acute care and psychiatry units

Career Opportunities Open for a Nurse Practitioner

There are a wide range of career opportunities available for a nurse practitioner. This is because the work of a nursing profession is one of the most sought after and the most stable job in the nursing profession. The opportunities inherent in this profession are as follows:

  • Ability to work closely with a physician or even independently as a physician in some cases.
  • Authority to provide diagnosis and treat patients, because of their status as Advanced Practice Nurses
  • Performing and delivering independent healthcare practices.
  • Provision of primary healthcare services for all ages from children to adults
  • Specialization in other medical areas such as dermatology, midwifery or psychiatry.

Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Successful Nurse Practitioner

There are several professions that one could term as such that need well calculated skills to be a success. One of such is the nursing profession. Just like other professionals, becoming a successful nurse practitioner requires some skills and personal traits that can easily propel one into performing exceedingly well, some of those skills and traits are really important to be imbibed. This is because of the level of success that can be attained.

  1. Ability to cope with people-: Nurse practitioners who intend to be successful in their chosen career must not only be able to stay with people, but must have the requisite skill or learn how to cope with them. This is due to the fact that as physician’s assistants, they are very close to the patients, and for the fact that they have to interact and mingle with patients from different age groups, coping with them too must be a skill they must possess.
  2. Good communication skills-: Nurse practitioners who are willing to succeed in the profession must learn the art of communication. This is because they are the ones who speak with the physicians directly, and ensure that the messages of the physician get to the patient. Therefore, they play a liaison role between the physicians, the patients and their families. Thus they must learn how to speak caringly and passionately too.
  3. Being detail-oriented: This should in fact be one of the foremost traits that any nurse should possess. This is because nurse practitioners who wish to be successful in their profession pay attention to every detail. In fact to a nurse practitioner, no detail is minute. They have to pay close attention to a patient’s charts, medications and follow-up on details of a patient care.
  4. Management of stress levels-: The Nurse practitioner profession though lucrative, is also a stressful one. Therefore successful nurse practitioners must be able to manage their stress levels because the job not only entails long unusual hours, but also exposure to many high pressure situations and even death. Therefore managing stress level is a skill all nursing practitioners should imbibe.
  5. Compassion-: A Nurse Practitioner must be compassionate and must be drawn to caring for the sick and the injured. This also includes but not limited to having empathy for the pain and suffering of patients, as well as a strong desire to make the hospital experience a memorably positive one as much as possible
  6. Ethical orientation-: A nurse practitioner must be a person who has a solid framework of ethics and willing to implement same. These ethics will guide his/her personal and professional conducts. Take for instance; cleanliness must be imbibed by all nurse practitioners, therefore any practitioner who falls short in this has failed a fundamental ethics test. Likewise commitment to humanitarian service and concern for the dignity of all patients must be carried out by all.
  7. Confidence-: Nurse practitioners, who are willing to excel in the profession, must have confidence in themselves. This entails that, they should be confident of the skills and knowledge they have to provide the best care possible. They should also be confidently able to work independently with little or no supervision, knowing full well that they would get the job done. When a Nurse practitioner is not confident and has self-doubt in his/her ability it could be very dangerous when faced with a critical situation
  8. Adaptability-: Nurse practitioners must be willing and able to adapt to all situations no matter how difficult. They must be flexible and adapt easily to emerging situations, trends and difficulties. Just like physicians, nurse practitioners have to work long hours and deal with fluctuating schedules. Thus the ability to cope and adapt to such situations becomes paramount for any practitioner who wishes to succeed in the profession.
  9. Dedication and Patience-: No medical practitioner especially the nurse practitioners can work effectively without been dedicated and patient. While patience as a trait will help to conquer anxiety, overcome misunderstandings and help in taking/making the right decisions. Thus, any nurse practitioner in his/her field therefore needs to put in a lot of commitments towards the work. Dedication ensures that you put in more efforts to becoming a better practitioner by gaining relevant experiences.
  10. Commitment to Development-: As it is said, the widest room in life is that of improvement/development. Therefore, to become a successful nurse practitioner, one must pay attention and dedicated to continuing education and participation in professional organizations.

Tips and Advice That Will Help Advance your Nursing Profession

Becoming a nurse practitioner is as easy as you make it seem. Though the certifications might take time, but it is indeed worth it. Therefore the following tips and advice can help advance a person’s career towards becoming a better nurse:

  • Earn the necessary certifications-: To become a successful nurse practitioner, you must ensure that you acquire all the certifications that are required of you. This is because it is only through this, that your journey towards even making it as a nurse practitioner can be actualized.
  • Seek relevant information-: Seeking of information from the right sources is critical to ensuring that you succeed as a nurse practitioner. Information such as the certifications needed in your country/state, the relevant government agencies you must be familiar with and so on and so forth.
  • Know your area of specialization-: As a nurse practitioner, you have the opportunity of specializing in one area or the other. Therefore, if you want to be a successful nurse practitioner, you must specialize in your area of interest as early as possible.
  • Your chosen career is flexible-: It is important you know that, the career you have chosen is a flexible one and it offers you a wide range of opportunities. Therefore, this should ring a bell in your head to prepare you adequately for the challenges ahead.
  • Follow relevant blogs-: The internet today brings with it information to you, even from the comfort of your homes. Therefore as a nurse practitioner who wishes to succeed, you must maximize this opportunity and ensure that you follow relevant blogs that can provide you with the necessary information you need.

A nurse practitioner today is indeed in the world of his own, this is because the nurse practitioner is not only sought after but also well paid. The nurse practitioner can be assured of a stable profession in the midst of harsh economic realities of our time. Though, becoming a nurse practitioner is a herculean task when taking into consideration the number of years to be spent and the number of exams/certifications that must be passed to become one.

Emphatically saying that the nurse practitioner is a profession for yesterday, today and tomorrow is an under-statement. This is because nurse practitioners are in high demand in various countries of the world such as the United States, Canada, Australia and United Kingdom. Nurse practitioners are well respected, well recognized, well paid, and also well taken care of.

Therefore, if you must choose any profession at all in this century, then Nurse practitioner must be upmost in your heart. As a nurse practitioner, you are not only humane, but also compassionate, caring, loving, patient and contributing meaningfully to the development of your society.

As a nurse practitioner, you make a lot of sacrifices, put in lots of efforts and above all cope with a lot of harsh difficulties to put things in order. So, what are you waiting for, what else do you need than to join this blazing and noble profession that is poised to make the world a better place for all to live in.

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