What To Know When Starting A Nursing Practitioner Program

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a Nursing Practitioner, then you might already have some knowledge of what is involved or expected, but need some more information on where to start. If you’re completely new to the profession and are just looking into it for the first time, then it might be helpful to get some more information before you contact Nursing Practitioner program providers about what they can offer. That’s why we’ve created this guide to all things NP, where we’ll discuss everything you need to know about what a Nursing Practitioner does, and how to break into this lucrative and rewarding career.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the overall employment rates of nurse practitioners, as well as anesthetists and nurse midwives, will have grown by 45% in the year 2030, which is a faster than average rate compared to other professions, so there really is no better time to get started in the industry and make a difference in a job that brings security and fulfillment.

What Is A Nursing Practitioner?

A nursing practitioner is a healthcare professional who can have a vast array of roles and responsibilities. They primarily work alongside doctors and carry out a variety of primary care tasks for patients. Although there can be some confusion around the differences between a physician and a nursing practitioner, the easiest way to remember where these roles differ is to note that nursing practitioners specialize in the prevention of disease, with much of their work surrounding the creation and maintenance of long term health plans for their patients.

Physicians work in a shorter-term capacity, with their focus being the immediate or urgent health needs of an individual. Because nursing practitioners play such a key role in the long-term health of their patients, they often form positive relationships with them and are vital to their overall wellbeing, which can give an NP a strong sense of reward and fulfillment in their career, so this is a great option if you’re looking for a role that is more than just a job.

As part of a nursing practitioner program, you’ll learn a range of skills to take into your role, and this is down to the huge variety of tasks that NPs are responsible for in their roles. Such tasks can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Working with patients to create a long-term health plan that is centered around their overall health. This approach often includes preventative techniques that encourages patients to take control of their health and work with a nursing practitioner over a longer time period, allowing them to better understand the needs of their body and how they can stay healthy year round.
  • Order a range of tests to diagnose a patient, before interpreting and acting on their results. Diagnostic tests allow nursing practitioners to gain a deeper understanding of the healthcare needs of a patient, as well as solve any mysteries as to what could be going on inside the body.
  • Understanding and prescribing the appropriate medication to patients in order to ensure that they are receiving the right care, and then tracking the effectiveness of this medication over time. This involves a high level of knowledge around the workings and potential side effects of different medications, and any implications that it might have for certain patient groups like older people or pregnant women. A reputable NP program will give you a strong foundation for this understanding, but you’ll be expected to keep learning while you’re in the role, as new medications are constantly being developed and authorized for use.  
  • Making an appropriate assessment of the needs of their patients and escalating issues to other healthcare professionals where needed. This is a crucial role in the job of a nursing practitioner as often patients will need to be referred to a specialist for further testing or treatment, and it’s vital that an NP can spot the signs early for the patient to receive the best care. Delays in diagnoses or incorrect advice can sometimes be life-threatening for patients, so practitioners play a hugely important role that comes with a lot of responsibility. However, this is a highly rewarding career when you make a big difference to the lives of your patients.

On top of these, there are still a large variety of tasks that a nursing practitioner could be responsible for, so it’s helpful to do some more research into this area if you are new to the profession, to make sure that you don’t run into anything too surprising as you embark on an NP program – there are plenty of guides around the roles of a nursing practitioner that go into some greater detail.

What Skills Do Nursing Practitioners Require?

As a result of the varied but demanding tasks that nursing practitioners need to do in their daily work, there is a specific skillset that is required from these individuals, and it’s one that you’ll need to familiarise yourself with before embarking on an NP program. One of the most important skills that you need to possess naturally is the ability to empathize with a patient without necessarily having lived their experience, as you will be faced with lots of patients who are going through an incredibly difficult time in their lives, so it will be down to you to understand how that will affect them in a variety of ways, and ensure you can help them in the best way possible.

Other skills required from a nursing practitioner might be more specific to the route you choose when going into the industry. For example, a pediatric nurse practitioner will need to be naturally confident around children, with the ability to turn a scary medical visit into a positive experience – this can be a tough task, so it’s vital that you are good with kids to make the process stress-free for everyone involved. Other specializations may demand skills in other areas, like those needed in a neo-natal nursing practitioner – these individuals need to be calm under pressure and capable of having difficult conversations if there is a health concern surrounding a new-born baby such as an abnormality or a lifelong condition that was not noticeable in utero. Soft skills that dominate the nursing practitioner industry revolve around communication, picking things up quickly, and learning complex information, so if you feel that these capabilities mirror your own skillset, then you should seriously consider a career in this area.

What Types Of Nursing Practitioners Are There?

If you’re becoming more interested in embarking on a nursing practitioner program, then it’s useful to have a clearer idea of the different types of nursing practitioners that are out there, to work out which role would be most suitable for you. Take a look at some of the below paths that you can embark on as an NP:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner:

Family Nurse Practitioners, or FNP’s, make up a large proportion of the population of nursing practitioners across the States, and for good reason. This is a hugely rewarding career in which job satisfaction is at an all-time high, thanks to the impactful work that FNP’s do on a daily basis.

FNP’s work predominantly in a primary care setting and provide care for patients of all ages, from birth to old age. Many families therefore develop relationships with their FNP and the whole family benefits from their knowledge and expertise. FNP’s help families by promoting and monitoring healthy eating practices, educating patients with information around their conditions, or assisting with injuries. If a patient is due to go in for a surgery, their dedicated FNP will also support them through this process.

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:

Pediatric nurses specialize in treating younger people, mainly infants, and children. This is another role that is based in primary care settings, and the responsibilities of PNP’s are similar to those of FNP’s – you’ll still be ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, providing healthy living plans, and prescribing medicines for your patients, but this might be in an acute pediatric care unit or setting.

PNP’s also play a pivotal role in the experience of families with young children undergoing long-term medical treatment. For these families, times can be difficult both mentally and physically, so you might find yourself carrying out therapy sessions to help them get through the tough times.

Pediatric Nursing Practitioners face some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, especially as their work centers around some of the most vulnerable young people. This can mean that the role can be mentally taxing, but if you’re someone who works well under pressure and can maintain good emotional control, this might be the perfect job for you.

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner:

If you’re someone who has a strong sense of empathy and compassion towards others, then working as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner might be a good choice for you, as this will allow you to apply your skills directly to those who need them most. PMHNPs provide primary care to patients going through mental health difficulties or coping with a mental illness, by assessing their needs and either referring them for more immediate medical support or helping them to put a mental health care plan in place. This role also involves counseling patients through their mental health concerns and prescribing the appropriate medication based on their symptoms, so a high degree of scientific knowledge is required alongside your caring nature. PMHNPs can sometimes cross over into other areas of medicine, offering support or acting as a family or pediatric nursing practitioner if a patient in these areas is suffering from a mental health condition or needs more immediate mental health support.

Due to the more specialized nature of the services provided by PMHNPs, these professionals can more often be found in private practices rather than a public hospital setting, but their scope allows for life-changing services to be provided to patients in a whole range of different areas. Schools, hospitals, and military bases are just a few of the institutions that can benefit from having on-site private PMHNPs. The most significant part of this career is remembering that patients in mental health distress will remember the impact that their PMHNP had on them during their most difficult times for the rest of their lives, so this is a role perfect for you if you’re searching for a job that allows you to truly make a difference.

How Do You Become A Nursing Practitioner?

Depending on what area you’d like to specialize in, the path to your qualification as a nursing practitioner can be quite varied, but typically you will need an MSN, which you can then supplement with further qualifications down the line. Among those currently studying for their MSN, one of the most popular ways to get qualified is to study online, as this presents some amazing opportunities to change career paths even if you have other commitments like a current full-time job or demanding childcare. These programs allow you to study from anywhere, and access materials whenever you need to, so your dream career might be closer than you think.

If you’re hoping to become a Family Nurse Practitioner, there are some great online MSN FNP programs that will cover all of the required content for qualification but also allow you to get a foot in the door to potential job opportunities through extensive career advice and support. Other specializations may require a specified time to be spent in an ICU or the completion of a further accreditation such as board certification. To become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, for instance, you’d need to be certified by the ANCC. It’s important that you take the time to research what you need to do to qualify as a nurse practitioner in your chosen area, but once you’ve done this you can hit the ground running.

Before you start a nursing practitioner program, it’s vital that you do as much research as possible to make sure that you’ve not only selected the right specialization to study for but also that you’ve thought hard about whether this career is one that would suit your skills and interests. Once you’ve made your decision to undertake a program, studying can get intense, so make sure you practice self-care wherever possible and keep your love for what you do at the forefront during the more difficult periods. This will leave you with an impactful career that makes a difference to the lives of others in the most rewarding way possible.