Acute Nurse Practitioners
Most people are not very familiar with the term acute care nurse practitioner. These practitioners are specially educated to deal with advanced levels of nursing care for patients suffering from critical, acute as well as chronic nature of ailments. The best candidates most suited to such an associate level of qualification are for RNFAs as well as perioperative nurses wishing to undertake advanced levels of practice responsibilities without having to let go of the acute, hands-on setting of a perioperative environment.
Scope of Practice
Family nursing practitioners or NPs are typically educated and trained to handle newborn babies and ensure their proper care, caring for women suffering from postpartum depression and other symptoms etc. They also deal with disease prevention, health protection and promotion. Some of the other areas where an acute care nurse practitioner finds responsibilities include those of neonatal care, psychiatric, pediatric, women's health, adult care, acute care as well as gerontological etc.
Differs across states
The primary and secondary responsibilities of an acute care nurse practitioner differ from one state to another. While some nurses handle proper and transparent billing of customers, others specialize in dental care as well while others might be qualified to become advanced registered nurse practitioners as well. Various legislation are passed from time to time by different states and these also change the nature and scope of practice of such nurses.
Nurse Practitioners Role and Duties
The acute care nurse practitioner primarily takes care of patients who have chronic, acute and critical illnesses. These nurses are involved with the hands-on care and attention of such patients.
Typical environments where such nurses operate include the subacute and acute hospital departments like burn, intensive care units, emergency wards, dialysis, trauma, medical surgical type units, rehabilitation or specialty office etc. These nurses thus remain the mid-level preference in terms of providers of specialty practice and care.
Areas of expertise
The area of expertise include cardiology, pulmonology, neurology, oncology, nephrology etc. Sometimes, the nurse practitioner involved in acute patient care may also have the additional responsibility to make decisions on diagnosis along with a surgeon or at times the nurse might also take care of the post discharge treatment of the patient.
These days, nursing practitioners can interpret as well as order laboratory and diagnostic tests. They can also chalk out specific treatment plans as well as prescribe appropriate medication across the US. They sometimes also take care of billing and other administrative functions of a clinic or hospital. Various acute as well as chronic natures of ailments are diagnosed and treated by nursing practitioners.
Where you can work
NPs can choose to work in clinics, hospitals, long term caring facilities or work independently. Sometimes, these nursing practitioners choose to work in agencies specializing in health care like a home healthcare center. At certain other times, these NPs specialize in niche areas of the medical segment like dental, psychiatry etc.
Nurse practitioners are completely responsible for understanding the history of a patient, conducting various physical examinations as well as ordering specific diagnostic exams and tests etc. They also need to prescribe specific physical therapy.
Compared to conventional nurses, nurse practitioners have additional and specialized duties like performing physical examination of patients, treating as well as diagnosing specific medical ailments etc. Apart from interacting with patients on a direct basis, nurse practitioners also help in disease prevention, promoting patient health, counseling as well as health education to patients.
Nurse Practitioner Education Requirements
Getting the Diploma
The very first stage of nurse practitioner education is to obtain a high school diploma. Thus, the very first criterion for any aspiring nurse practitioner is to finish graduation from a high school. This is essential for any student wishing to join nursing programs at an accredited university or college.
Getting the Nursing Degree
This comprises the second phase of a nurse practitioner education.
In order to qualify for applying for nurse practitioner degree accredited program you need to be a graduate in nursing. In other words, you should already possess a BSN degree in nursing.
It involves the nurses getting their license for becoming an RN or registered nurse. Thus, all nursing practitioners need to become RNs and all RNs have to finish graduation from accredited universities or colleges.
These registered nurses can get an associate degree or even a bachelor degree. Sometimes, a diploma is sufficient for the purpose of practicing in this realm.
Certain NP degrees allow students to gain entry as soon as they finish their associate or graduation degree, most require that students complete certain amount of time working as a Nursing Assistant or as an RN before they can get admission to the course.
Getting the Master's Degree
This is the third stage of any nurse practitioner education. In this phase, the aspiring nurse practitioners need to receive a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Every MSN program will focus on specified areas such as dental, women's health, family practice, acute care, children's nursing etc.
The last stage of this education involves getting the actual license. Every state within the US requires that aspiring NPs get a license to facilitate practicing nursing in a professional manner. Only with a license can a nurse start practicing in a healthcare center or hospital. Thus, such nurses will need to sit for and pass the exam called NCLEX-RN.
Renewal of the license on a periodical basis is also essential.
The final stage of the nurse practitioner education comprises the application for certification. Once the nurse receives the state license these RNs should receive appropriate certification from accredited organizations like the AANP or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the ANCC or American Nurses Credentialing Center etc.
Once the nurse completes the bachelor, doctoral degrees, receives license and certification, the nurse can become a nurse practitioner. These doctorate programs also help nurses deal with administrative tasks like billing etc. Hence, the gamut of NPs is wide-ranging and focuses on many activities in addition to just caring for patients.
Most of the existing Nurse Practitioner degree programs need the applying students to have at least one year working in a clinic or hospital as an RN. Only then can they qualify for admission into the NP program. Even during the NP program and training, the students are needed to undergo clinical rotations in order to practice and apply skills learnt during the training. Thus, whether the student is specializing in dental, psychiatry, midwifery, acute care or any other niche segment, they need to implement whatever they have learnt. MDs and nurse educators supervise these clinical rotations.
Accelerated Pace Of Learning
There are two ways on how to become a nurse practitioner.
- One way is the conventional offline method where you study in a brick and mortar college or university.
- The other is through online doctorate or master programs specializing in the nursing segment.
These offer aspiring NPs to accelerate the pace of learning and schedule flexible study hours as per individual convenience. Thus, such online programs are ideal for busy nurses who already have a job.
Why Choose Online Programs
The path towards obtaining a nurse practitioner license and certification is tough and most people choose nurse practitioner programs online to expedite the process.
Unlike conventional brick mortar universities, online counterparts offer flexibility in study schedule as well as the ability to allow a student to choose exam timings and dates. This makes it very easy for an aspiring nurse to get NP certification and license by completing an MSN program online at their own convenient time and pace.
If you are already working full-time at a medical facility, you may not have the luxury of time to attend campus nursing courses but with an online doctoral or master degree you can fulfill your dreams of becoming an NP easily.
Most doctorate programs amongst nurse practitioner programs online focus on appropriate theory as well as practical sessions. These sessions focus on general healthcare and this is very useful if a student wants to become a nurse practitioner in a physician's office. However, many doctoral nurse practitioner programs also offer in-depth training on pediatrics, infant care, midwifery, dental, geriatric care, women's healthcare etc. These courses also focus on counseling and guiding aspiring nurses in the segments like legal nursing counseling, family medical therapy, education for life care etc.
It is important to choose an accredited university or college to obtain the certification for NP. Nurse practitioner programs must be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Nurse Practitioners
Since it these studies can be costly, financial aid and scholarships are available for aspiring students interested in becoming an NP. Your choice of school will have details available of how and where you can apply for financial aid.
In addition, AACN also has a wealth of information including financial aid resources that is worth visiting.
NP Salaries and Job Prospect Growth
According to data (May 2016) published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $100,910. And since this is the median wage, half of all nurse practitioners will earn more than that, whilst the other half will earn less. It's also worth pointing out that those in the top 10% earned $140,930 however these individuals also most likely did a lot of shift work, meaning they worked during evenings, weekends and holidays.
Job prospects are very good for nurse practitioners no matter what specialty you're in. So even though it may take a few years to get to become an NP, most say that it is well worth the effort and investment. With such great prospects for employment and changes in healthcare acts along with an aging population, there has never been a better time to enter this realm.