What Do Different Types of Nurse Practitioners Do?

When it comes to the healthcare industry, nurses play an essential role in ensuring that patients get the care that they need. With nurses playing such an important role within the healthcare industry today, it has never been more important that these professionals get the right advanced training to prepare them for providing patients with the right standards of care. Nursing is a career option with lots of opportunities for progression, and investment and growth in more educational options for nurses has led to further development of the nurse practitioner role. 

Nurse practitioners are beginning to play an increasingly important role in delivering primary care to patients today. They are advanced registered nurses with specialist postgraduate training such as a masters’ degree or doctoral degree in nursing practice and related healthcare fields. Many nurse practitioners are highly skilled professionals; they have more responsibility and autonomy over their work compared to registered nurses and have full practice authority in twenty-two states, allowing them to examine, diagnose and treat patients without supervision. 

What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?

The everyday work tasks and responsibilities of a nurse practitioner will depend on several factors including the environment that they work in and their chosen area of specialty. Most nurse practitioners work in a setting where they will be required to undertake a variety of different tasks including patient care, management and planning. In most clinical healthcare settings, nurse practitioners are professionals who will see the patient at an early stage and often be the first to attend to the patient’s concerns. Nurse practitioners will diagnose illnesses and injuries, prescribe medication, provide education and counselling to patients when it comes to managing their health, record patient medication history, provide advice regarding medical treatment and medication to patients, and make referrals and recommendations for further treatment. 

Nurse Practitioner Specialty Areas

Nurse practitioners can choose from a wide variety of different areas of healthcare that they can specialize in. There are various different types of nurse practitioner roles that nurses can consider when working towards this position. Some of the most popular specialty choices for nurse practitioners include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

This is a primary care role that is the most popular type of nurse practitioner role to get into. Currently, it is also one of the most in high demand since family nurse practitioners are being hired across the US to step into positions that have been left empty by a shortage of primary care physicians. The main responsibility in this role involves dealing with general family health. Family nurse practitioners are tasked with treating patients of all ages and will deal with a wide range of conditions and healthcare problems on a day-to-day basis. Family nurse practitioners offer general healthcare, but they are able to specialize in certain areas of healthcare if they wish, such as women’s health or mental health. Online FNP programs from Marymount University are designed to train registered nurses to become a family nurse practitioner. 

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners work in a role where they are mainly tasked with caring for patients who are suffering from mental health problems. These nurse practitioners have specialist training in psychology and mental health that they can use to provide counseling and treatment to patients with a wide range of mental health disorders. Psychiatric nurse practitioners may work in a variety of healthcare environments but are most often found in psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics and residential programs. They have full practice authority and can work independently in twenty-two states, but will often be hired to work alongside psychiatrics, psychologists and within teams of other mental health professionals. 

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

A pediatric nurse practitioner will work mainly with children. They specialize in illnesses that tend to affect children more often than adults. They are able to either run their own clinics where full practice authority is permitted or work under pediatricians in hospitals, outpatient clinics and other healthcare environments. 

  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

An adult gerontology nurse practitioner is a healthcare professional who specializes in treating adults. Most often, they will work with older adults and seniors. They can work in a variety of different environments including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, doctor’s offices and more. Some adult gerontology nurse practitioners may wish to specialize in their career even further, with some focusing on issues that tend to impact older adults more often such as dementia. 

  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

A neonatal nurse practitioner is a highly skilled professional who specializes in looking after neonates, or newborn babies. Neonatal nurse practitioners will typically work in the NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit, where babies are cared for during the first few weeks or months or their life after being born premature or with birth defects. Neonatal nurse practitioners may also provide post-hospital stay care and work with parents in the community. 

  • Surgical Nurse Practitioner

A surgical nurse practitioner is an advanced nurse who is tasked with assisting with surgical procedures. They receive more in-depth training compared to surgical nurses and are able to offer more assistance for procedures. However, surgical nurse practitioners are not licensed to conduct surgeries without supervision. 

  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Oncology nurse practitioners work with patients who are suffering from various forms of cancer. They will usually work in either the oncology department of a hospital or in specialist oncology clinics. While they are able to work independently in states that award full practice authority, they do tend to work with oncologists and other physicians. 

  • Retail Health Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are at the forefront of retail health; a relatively new field that offers treatment for minor injuries and non-urgent health concerns. Retail health clinics tend to be found in drugstores, pharmacies and superstores and are becoming an increasingly popular way for patients to get the treatment that they need for minor healthcare problems or get advice regarding their health and wellbeing in a convenient way. In states that award full practice authority, nurse practitioners can run these clinics independently, so they are often the first choice of professional to hire. 

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner – Step by Step

With more responsibility and autonomy than a registered nurse, higher salaries and lots of specialty areas to get into coupled with high demand and job security, deciding to become a nurse practitioner is an increasingly popular career advancement option for nurses. Nurses will often decide that the role of a nurse practitioner is the right one for them since they prefer the idea of working in an advanced role that continues to allow them to provide direct care for patients, unlike other advanced career path options like management or education. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Become a Registered Nurse

If you are not already a registered nurse, you will need to train as one before you can become a nurse practitioner. You can become a registered nurse by getting either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Bear in mind that you will usually need to have a BSN to enroll on nursing master’s degree programs and nurse practitioner training programs in the future. If you have an associate’s degree, you can find ADN-BSN bridge programs that allow you to get your BSN faster by building on what you already know. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject and are considering changing to a career in nursing, an ABSN program might be ideal for you since it allows you to get your BSN in just two rather than four years. 

  • Get Nursing Experience

Once you have qualified as a registered nurse and passed the NCLEX, you will be able to get a license to practice as a registered nurse in your state. Most of the time, to become a nurse practitioner, you will need a certain level of experience as a nurse. It’s often important for nurses to spend some time getting real-world clinical experience and trying out different areas of nursing before they decide on where they want to study and what specialty area they would prefer as a nurse practitioner. In addition to this, many nurses choose to spend a few years working as a registered nurse before beginning nurse practitioner training since building up a good relationship with your employer may improve your chances of having them pay for your tuition. 

  • Get a Graduate Degree

To qualify as a nurse practitioner, you will need to get a graduate degree such as a master’s degree in nursing. You can get a general MSN or an MSN that specializes in training students to work as a nurse practitioner. This will usually take a minimum of two years to complete. If you get an MSN, you may need to get a postgraduate certificate afterwards to work in certain nurse practitioner fields. Pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner roles, for example, will often require specialist training along with oncology and surgical nurse practitioners. 

How to Choose the Right Nurse Practitioner Education

When it comes to programs that you can take to get into a role as a nurse practitioner, there is no shortage of options available. There are several things to consider when it comes to choosing the right nurse practitioner program for you, whether you want to get a master’s degree, a doctoral degree, or a postgraduate certificate. Some of the main things to think about include:

  • Specialty Area

If you want to work as a family nurse practitioner, an MSN degree is likely to suffice to get you into this career path. However, if you are considering working in a specialty area as a nurse practitioner, this might require you to embark on more focused training. For example, a specialist degree that focuses on this field may be a better option for you if you want to become a pediatric or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, as it will provide more education that is highly relevant to the type of work that you will be doing and the patients that you will be treating in this role. 

  • School Choice

Another main factor to consider is the school that you are going to attend to get your advanced degree and become a nurse practitioner. It is important to choose a reputable college that has a good student success rate. Make sure that the school you decide to attend is fully accredited and offers accredited programs from a relevant nursing accreditation agency. 

  • Study Method

Today, there are more options available for nurses who want to become nurse practitioners. Online learning is a top choice for many nurses since it provides them with the flexibility that they need to continue working as normal while studying to advance their career. If you want to study online, make sure that this is a study option that you feel you can handle. Find out as much as you can about the program including when the deadlines are and if you have to be available for certain dates and times for lectures or clinical experience. 

  • Finances

How you’re planning to pay for your advanced nursing degree is another main option to consider when you are selecting where, what and how to study. If you are currently working as a registered nurse, this is always a wise conversation to have with your employer, since the high demand for nurse practitioners means that an increasing number of employers are now offering to cover all or some of the tuition cost for nurses who are willing to study before continuing to work for them as a nurse practitioner. 

  • Admissions Requirements

The admissions requirements for nurse practitioner training programs are often quite stringent, so make sure that you meet them. Going above and beyond when it comes to experience can help you stand out, as can getting relevant extra-curricular experience like travel or military nursing, along with being a member of professional nursing organizations. Prepare your reference letters and admissions essays ahead of time to perfect them. 

Nurse practitioners work in various specialty areas, and are some of the most in-demand healthcare professionals in the modern world.