If you’re looking to work in an incredibly rewarding career that has the ability to drastically improve people’s lives, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) might be the exact occupation for you. Nurse practitioners play an important role within healthcare and medicine by assessing and providing care to patients.

But what are the specific tasks and duties that a nurse practitioner is responsible for completing? What certifications and skills do you need to become one? Below, we explore typical duties NPs are responsible for, where they work, and the skills and certifications you’ll need to become a nurse practitioner.

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What do Nurse Practitioners do on a Daily Basis?

The primary role of nurse practitioners is to monitor patient health, provide medical care, and serve as a primary care provider. This last point is a key difference between registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

On a daily basis, nurse practitioners are typically expected to perform some combination of the following duties:

  • Recording patient medical histories, including current symptoms and medications, and ensuring accurate medical records to provide proper diagnoses
  • Collecting information and samples from patients
  • Performing routine and detailed examinations and assessments
  • Observing patients and analyzing their test results
  • Creating individual treatment plans
  • Referring patients so they acquire the treatment they need
  • Prescribing medications and monitoring results
  • Ordering lab tests and diagnostic procedures such as X-rays
  • Performing small medical procedures, depending on specializations
  • Managing registered nurses, LPNs, CNAs, and other staff members
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals such as occupational therapists or physical therapists to create further treatment plans and improve patient diagnoses

Keep in mind that an NP’s specific workload and job duties vary significantly depending on the location, facility type, team, and specific field they work in. But no matter where you work or what field of medicine you practice in, you’ll be charged with providing the best patient care possible.

Where do Nurse Practitioners Work?

Like registered nurses, nurse practitioners work in a wide range of fields and specialities, ranging from hospitals, emergency rooms, surgical clinics, pediatric care, government agencies, and managed care facilities.

“[As a nurse practitioner], you can even perform home visits under the home-care umbrella,” says Carol Martin, assistant dean of the nurse practitioner program at Regis College. “The field is wide open.”

NPs can also work in private practices and university settings, thanks to their advanced education and additional training and experience. Unlike RNs, nurse practitioners are permitted to prescribe treatment, order lab tests, and diagnose patients without the oversight of a physician.

In the state of Massachusetts, for example, Governor Baker signed into law that NPs can practice independently and no longer require supervision by physicians, but “there is language that they must have worked under a physician for two years before they're free to go off and practice,” says Martin.

“To be a nurse practitioner, you first have to be a nurse who advances your nursing skills. You're doing physical assessments on the patient. You are prescribing medication [and] ordering laboratory and diagnostic tests like lab work, chest x-rays, based on your physical assessment findings. You're collaborating with other physicians or nurse practitioners or other disciplines that you need direction from,” says Martin.

You may even perform procedures on patients, depending on your specific focus in healthcare. “As an NP, you do need oversight, guidance, and mentoring, and to work with other providers for the well-being and benefit to the patient as a team,” Martin explains.

“All of this allows you to function as physicians do, but in a nurse practitioner role where you’ll provide a more holistic approach to medicine, depending on your specific focus.”

Skills Necessary to Succeed as a Nurse Practitioner

In order to become a nurse practitioner, you will need to complete the following key steps:

  • Become a registered nurse: Nurse practitioners are at their hearts registered nurses with additional qualifications. This means you will need to first become a registered nurse by completing an appropriate degree, typically a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN); passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX); and obtaining licensure in the state in which you wish to work.
  • Complete your graduate education: To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to complete an accredited graduate degree. This can be a master’s level program, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a doctoral degree like a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Once you’re on your way to becoming an NP—and even when you’re working in the profession—you’ll need to constantly become familiar with new developments, cutting-edge technologies, and policies in medicine. But your healthcare expertise is not the only skill you’ll need to succeed.

It’s important to be detail-oriented and analytical, and you’ll need to hone your soft skills, too. NPs work with a variety of patients in numerous settings, so being empathetic and having strong communication and leadership skills is key to building rapport with your team and patients.

Average Salary for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners not only build trusting relationships with their patients and make a difference in their lives, but they can also earn generous salaries and benefits. Of course, the amount you’ll earn depends on the geographical location and specializations of where you work, but on average, NPs earn $109,000 per year ($52 per hour) in 2021. This can range from as low as $50,500 to as high as $155,000 per year, depending on where you work. For example, the average nurse practitioner earns approximately $125,381 annually in the state of Massachusetts.

Nurse practitioners also earn a range of benefits, such as vacation pay, health insurance, 401K contributions, education reimbursement, on-site childcare, professional liability and malpractice insurance, continued education, and, more rarely, sign-on bonuses. NPs also have more autonomy and work more consistent hours compared to registered nurses.

The Next Step in Your Nursing Career

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, Regis College offers a renowned nursing program taught by leading professionals in the industry. You can earn your BSN, MSN, and DNP, and can even fast-track your BSN.

“The NP faculty that teach my program on campus, they've been at Regis 10+ years,” says Martin. “So they really understand what's needed in the curriculum where the students are coming from.”

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