How do You Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Similar to that of a doctor, a nurse practitioner can diagnose and treat diseases or other medical conditions, interpret test results, educate/counsel, prescribe medication if permitted by law, and even perform minor surgeries. A nurse practitioner usually work under the supervision of a doctor, though some do work independently. Below is a simple outline of requirements in order for one to become a nurse practitioner.

Education

To become a nurse practitioner, one obtain a master’s and/or a doctorate in nursing. In order to obtain a master’s in any field, a bachelor’s degree is required. Thus, many who wish to become a nurse practitioner begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program or school.

A BSN takes around four years to complete, and involves both classroom learning and hands-on clinical practice. Those who are already registered nurses (RN) with an ASN often make use of the many RN-BSN bridge programs.  As well, those who wish to become a nurse but have degrees in other fields have the option to go into accelerated BSN programs.

Once a BSN is obtained, aspiring nurse practitioners will often go on to obtain their master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). Depending on the degree level one chooses to pursue, the time of study usually ranges from two to six years. However, it is important to note that some graduate programs or schools requires their applicants to have practiced as an RN. Those who are already practicing RN’s with a BSN that want to become nurse practitioners can take also advantage of many RN-MSN (Master’s of Science in Nursing) bridge programs.

Alongside topics that are studied throughout various degree levels of nursing degrees, students tend to choose a nursing specialty to go into when completing master’s degree programs. These specialties can include, but are not limited to, oncology, women’s health, and pediatrics.

Training

Most nursing programs will require students to complete a clinical experience at a teaching hospital, or sometimes a nursing home. Clinical experiences often last for about a term, and is done under the supervision of nursing instructors. This provides hands-on training for nursing students, as well as ensure that students can apply their knowledge learned from classrooms to real-life clinical situations. Additional clinical experience could be required for certain specialties such as child psychiatry or pediatrics.

Some students go on a one-year residency after obtaining their BSN’s, though this is not typically required. It could, however, aid in employment opportunities.

Licensing/Certification

All nurse practitioners who wish to practice in the medical field must be licensed or certified. While the specifics of obtaining the license vary from place to place, it usually requires completion of an accredited nursing program, a passing score on the state exam, as well as board certification. Some would need to meet extra requirements, like obtaining knowledge in medication safety, in order to acquire certification. This is all done in addition to obtaining certification to be a practicing RN.

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