A nurse practitioner is a Registered Nurse (RN) who in addition to earning nursing credentials, has gone on to receive further training, such as a masters degree or a doctorate in a specialized area of nursing practice. Nurse practitioners are a part of a wider category of specialist nurses, collectively referred to as Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners(ARNP). While Registered Nurses offer care in a generalized way, which means they end up doing a little of everything, nurse practitioners focus on the specific area in which they have received specialized training.

How does one become a nurse practitioner?

Donna Irving ARNP of Advanced Urology InstituteAchieving the title of Nurse Practitioner requires a sustained effort to build up one’s nursing career. The journey to becoming a nurse practitioner can be summarized as follows:

1. Earn a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or a diploma from an institution duly licensed to offer nursing programs.

2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination. This is what earns a nurse the license to practise as a Registered Nurse. One has to seek the approval of the State Board before taking the exam.

3. Gain experience as a Registered Nurse.

4. Enroll for a masters degree or a doctorate in a chosen area of specialization and at an accredited institution. Usually graduating from any of these programs will require a certain amount of practical work in the chosen area in the form of residency programs.

5. Complete a certification program from an institution accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties or the National Commission for Certification Agencies. Some of the agencies that grant certification include the National Certification Corporation, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

6. Obtain a licence to practice in a particular state, in accordance with the regulations of that state’s Nursing Board.

Advantages of becoming a nurse practitioner

Registered Nurses are encouraged to further their education to the level of nursing practitioner to help fill the gap left by a shortage of doctors. Due to the level of education, nurse practitioners earn more than Registered Nurses. In addition to being able to do all that a Registered Nurse can do, nurse practitioners occupy a decision making position and can determine the care plan of patients and give directions on how the plan should be carried out.

The role that nurse practitioners play in improving access to and the quality of healthcare is so important that some states even allow nurse practitioners to operate on their own without the supervision of a doctor. Established institutions such as the Advanced Urology Institute now have nurse practitioners among their ranks so there is no shortage of employment opportunities for trained nurse practitioners.

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