How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

There has been a large increase in the number of nurse practitioner programs and graduates. This was driven in part, perhaps, by the changing health care system, hospital downsizing, increase in ambulatory care and constraints on managed care.

A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice nurse who has education beyond the bachelor’s degree in a clinical specialty area strongly focused on primary care, though some subspecialties are hospital based. NPs have received specialized training, most often at the master’s level, in diagnosing and treating illnesses and providing health care maintenance.

The keys to the success of the of the nurse practitioner role have been the autonomous yet collaborative nature of the practice, accountability as a direct provider of health care services, emphasis on clinical decision making as a basic clinical skill, focus on health and healthy lifestyles as a foundation of practice and the cost-effective, accessible nature of the practice. These basic attributes of NP practice hold true regardless of setting or specialty focus.

While the performance of such roles bodes well for nursing in general and NPs specifically, there are also some questions about them taking on too much within the health care system. The concern is that if they take on an increasing amount of technical and medical work, then characteristics highly valued in the profession may be threatened like skill in caring and communication.

It is clear that while NPs provide autonomous practice and competent patient management, they also must protect their holistic, caring nursing role.

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