A new nurse practitioner smiles because he has finished his training and is now licensed.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

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The nature of a nurse practitioner's work is closely similar to a doctor's. The nurse practitioner either has a master's and/or PhD, and they practice under a doctor's supervision or in some cases even independently. They are responsible for diagnosing medical conditions, treating conditions, interpreting test results, performing minor surgeries, providing education/counsel, and prescribing medicine, if permitted by the law. If you're interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, this is an outline of educational and training requirements that should get you started on the right track.

Education

Becoming a nurse practitioner begins with earning a BSN (or bachelor's degree in nursing) from an accredited school. This program generally takes four years to complete at full time status, and it will involve both clinical and classroom learning. Nurses that already hold an ASN (associate's degree in nursing) can take advantage of bridge programs that make it easy to advance to a bachelor's or graduate level degree. Students that have degrees in non-nursing fields often take advantage of accelerated BSN programs in order to quickly obtain their degrees.

Once a BSN is obtained, the student must continue their education for another 2-6 years to obtain their MSN (master's degree in nursing) or DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice). Master's and doctorate programs often involve various courses on pharmacology, diagnosis, anatomy, and ethics. Students will also see more clinical training in these programs. It is then, usually, that students also choose a path or specialty. Common specialties include oncology, women's health, geriatrics, psychiatry, pediatrics, etc.

Note: In some cases, graduate programs/schools might require the applicant to be an RN (registered nurse) and have experience as one.

Training

In most nursing programs, a student is going to undergo clinical training to gain experience. Some students choose to take on a one-year residency after obtaining their BSNs in order to sharpen their experience. While this can help you find a job, it is not required. Certain specialties, such as adolescent and child psychiatry, also require additional clinical experience.

Licensing/Certification

When a nurse wants to practice in a specific state, they must obtain a license. Obtaining a license usually requires graduation from an accredited program, a passing score on their state exam, and board certification. Some nurse practitioners might have to meet extra requirements (such as taking courses in medication safety), depending on their state of residence, before they can acquire certification.

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