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What does a Family Nurse Practitioner do?

Family nurse practitioners provide comprehensive family care to patient of all ages. They don't specialize in a particular kind of medicine, but are primary care providers. In small villages and rural areas, it's not uncommon for family nurse practitioners to run small medical offices or even clinics by themselves.

According to the American Academy of Nurse Practioners, nurse practitioners (NPs) provide healthcare services similar to those of medical doctors. They diagnose and treat medical conditions, prescribe medications, manage patients' overall care, etc.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs serve as primary and specialty care providers, providing a blend of nursing and healthcare services to patients and families. The most common specialty areas for nurse practitioners are family practice, adult practice, women's health, pediatrics, acute care, and geriatrics.

Educational requirements for family nurse practitioners

Family nurse practitioners are always registered nurses, but their training, education and qualifications exceed those of registered nurses.

In order to become a registered nurse (RN) in the U.S., one needs to either obtain a four-year college degree, a two-year associate degree or, more rarely, complete a diploma program. Most registered nurses obtain four-year bachelor's degrees in nursing. The coursework includes classes in anatomy, patient care, nursing, pharmacology, leadership, etc.

Family nurse practitioners are considered advanced practice nurses, and as such, must hold a master's degree in nursing, which can be obtained in two to four years of study at a private or public university.

Online options, especially at for-profit universities, are also an attractive option for busy RNs who want to become nurse practitioners. In all states in the U.S., nurses must pass a licensing examination, known as the NCLEX-RN, in order to obtain a nursing license.

How much do registered nurses earn?

The job outlook for nurses - and the entire health care profession - is excellent, even though it can vary by region. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by 22 percent.

The BLS also predicts that the advanced practice areas, which include nurse practitioners, will continue to be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas, including rural areas and inner cities.

Most of the nation's RNs work in hospitals, doctors' offices, in home health services, outpatient care services or in nursing care facilities. The states with the highest employment for RNs are California, Texas, New York and Florida, while the highest-paying states are California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Alaska and Maryland.

If you think that the nation's fastest growing employment sector--healthcare--is a good fit for you, then nursing might just be up your alley. Start the journey now by choosing the nursing degree that fits your needs.

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