A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has received additional medical training so that he or she can diagnose and treat various illnesses. If someone wishes to become a nurse practitioner, he or she will need to first obtain an undergraduate nursing degree from an accredited college or university. The next step is to become a licensed registered nurse (RN). After working for about two years as an RN, the nurse can enroll in a nurse practitioner program. Such programs last for about one to two years.
Nurse practitioners can perform medical exams, prescribe medicine, and treat sick patients. On the other hand, they are authorized to provide additional medical services to the public. For example, physical therapy, massage therapy, immunizations, and the performing of various medical procedures are all part of a day's work for an experienced nurse practitioner. He or she helps to educate patients on how to prevent disease and live healthier lives. If someone wishes to become a nurse practitioner, he or she can expect to work in a hospital, medical clinic, a nursing home, schools or colleges, doctors' offices, home health care agencies, or other facilities that require the services of medical professionals.
The work schedule of a nurse practitioner varies. Someone who wishes to become a nurse practitioner can expect to work odd hours, including nights and weekends. Nurse practitioners who work in an acute care setting may sometimes be on call, taking care of patients outside of normal working hours. The typical nurse practitioner will also be expected to spend time reading medical journals or attending conferences in order to stay abreast of new developments in the medical field.
Not all nurse practitioners specialize in the same medical area. For example, some may specialize in family health while others prefer to work with the elderly population. Nurse practitioners may also choose to work in pediatrics or focus on women's health. Still others may choose the mental health field or specialize in adult health.
A nurse practitioner must display the same qualities of a first-rate physician. Having the ability to listen to patients' concerns, provide accurate health and wellness information, and treat each patient as an individual are important characteristics of anyone who wants to become a nurse practitioner. Since nurse practitioners are authorized to treat illnesses, conduct medical exams, and order diagnostic tests, they are valued members of the health care community who can provide patients with quality care.