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Family nurse practitioners are advanced practiced nurses who serve as primary health care providers for patients of all ages. They diagnose and treat medical illnesses. They educate patients, focusing on prevention of disease and optimizing health. 

Registered nurses can become family nurse practitioners by obtaining specialized course work at the Master’s or Doctoral degree level. It is proposed that the minimal educational for Nurse Practitioners be increased to the Doctorate of Nursing level of preparation by 2015. That would require additional rulings by individual state governments.

Educational preparation to become certified as a Family Nurse Practitioner is rigorous. Multiple routes are available. Some nurses pursue a nurse practitioner degree as part of an initial nursing career.  Most people pursue degrees as registered nurses and then work towards obtaining education which will allow them to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

Online and on campus courses of study are available. Programs are available which serve as a bridge for nurses to obtain bachelors and masters degrees as combination programs.

Prior to acceptance into the nurse practitioner  degree phase of a nursing program, a nurse must obtain a license as a registered nurse in the appropriate state. A minimum of a bachelor’s level degree is usually required for direct admission in to Family Nurse Practitioner degree programs. Students must take the GRE, Graduate Record Exam, as well in order to be considered for admission to most programs.

All nurse practitioner students are required to do a great deal of independent study. All have extensive internships which require that the student partner with nurse practitioners and physicians to gain clinical expertise.  Nurse practitioner students need to independently facilitate partnerships with health care providers to obtain the stringent internship requirements.

Course work in advance of the actual nurse practitioner clinicals and courses may be taken on a part time or full time basis. For the final eighteen months of clinicals and coursework, a full time commitment is required.

Doctorate of Nursing Practice degrees require two years of post masters level coursework.

Nurse practitioners must pass national board exams prior to practicing. Exams are administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. All states have continuing education requirements as well. 

Nurse practitioners diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses and injuries. Family Nurse Practitioners work with all ages – babies through geriatrics.

The scope of practice of nurse practitioners varies widely among individual states. Nurse practitioners are allowed to order referrals for other services, treatments, and diagnostic tests.  They develop treatment plans for diets, exercises, and therapies. Medication prescribing capacities vary depending upon individual state rules. In some jurisdictions, nurse practitioners have the option to work independently. However in most areas a nurse practitioner must work collaboratively with a physician.

Family nurse practitioners work in diverse settings. Some set up individual practices, providing their jurisdictions allow them to. Most find employment in hospitals, medical practices, and clinics. Insurance, home health and government agencies employ Family Nurse Practitioners. Educational facilities utilize the services of Family Nurse Practitioners as well as care providers, educators, and researchers. 

The job description for a Family Nurse Practitioner varies with clientele and type of setting. Nurse practitioners conduct comprehensive physical examinations. They are patient advocates.  They may actively  in seeking changes in health care policies on multiple levels.  Nurse practitioners often excel at patient teaching. As Primary Care Providers, Family Nurse Practitioners may treat minor and serious illnesses. They collaborate with other health care providers as needed.

The occupational forecast for Family Nurse Practitioners is excellent. Nurse practitioners are among the highest paid nurse professionals.  The average annual salaries of Family Nurse Practitioners range from sixty- one thousand to ninety seven thousand dollars annually. Regional differences exist. Compensation also varies dependent upon work setting.  The majority of Family Nurse Practitioners are eligible for additional compensation and benefits such as profit sharing, health insurance, and retirement plans, which serve to further boost salaries.  New nurse practitioners and those with less than five years of experience can expect to gross between sixty to eighty five thousand dollars per annum. 

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (www.aanp.org)
  • American College of Nurse Practitioners (www.nurse.org/acnp)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (www.nursecredentialing. org)

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