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What does a Nurse Practitioner do?

Are you an empathetic person who loves helping others? Are you fascinated by both the clinical care of the sick and the health education that will help them improve their health in the future? Do you want to be a part of a system that offers patients high quality healthcare at a more reasonable price? Then you may want to be a nurse practitioner.

Job description: the basics

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with an advanced practice specialty. As such, he or she is able to perform all of the duties of a nurse and also take on a role more typical of a doctor, like prescribing medications and serving as a primary care provider.

As a nurse practitioner, you can expect to do things like treat and counsel both healthy and sick patients, conduct diagnostic and therapeutic tests, and monitor patients' general health and well-being. You can specialize in many different areas, from sub-specialties like allergy and immunology or sports medicine to more general specialties like family health or mental health. You can tailor your practice to the aspects of health and clinical care that you feel most passionate about.

Most nurse practitioners work in places like an office practice, at a hospital, or at a public health clinic, but you could also find a job in education, or even in marketing at a pharmaceutical company if you decide not to practice one day. This means that you may work long shifts and odd hours, or you may end up with a regular 40-hour work week. The choice is yours!

Becoming a nurse practitioner: education and training

Nurse practitioners must have both a bachelor's and a master's degree at minimum, and many have doctorates.

You can find some programs that will allow you to get a bachelor's and a master's in nursing together, and these typically take about four years. Alternatively, you can go through school in a more typical progression, getting your bachelor's first and then moving on to a two-year master's program.

You have to take your board examination (the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN) regardless of your degrees, and many states ask that all nurses take continuing education classes throughout their careers in order to keep up with the latest medical news and technology.

Salary and career outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, your job outlook as a nurse practitioner is excellent. Particularly if you are willing and able to relocate to the areas in the most need, such as the inner city or a rural community, you'll be in high demand and can expect to have a good starting salary.

As a nurse practitioner, you have the satisfaction of knowing you're delivering high-quality healthcare at a more affordable price to a wide range of patients.

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