A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse that has completed a course of study in advanced nursing. Nurse practitioners, who have completed the educational requirements of a registered nurse, usually work as an RN, in a clinical setting for at least two years, before starting the Master of Science Nursing program.
Many states require NPs to be certified by a national organization; this type of certification includes working an internship position to gain clinical experience. NPs diagnose and treat patients in a wide range of health care settings. According to Nurse Practitioner Alternatives, 31 percent of NPs specialize in family practice.
Individual state scope-of-practice laws regulate whether a NP collaborates or is supervised by a licensed physician. Scope-of-practice laws also govern an NP’s prescribing authority.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
A nurse practitioner is not the same as a physician assistant. While both occupations share some common duties within a health care setting, there are also important differences between the two.
Nurse practitioners examine, diagnose and treat patients in a manner similar to a physician. They also provide educational information and counseling as it pertains to a patient’s health care needs. NPs have advanced educational and clinical training–they typically hold a master’s or doctorate. NPs work in a clinical setting prior to earning the nurse practitioner title. This “hands-on” experience is important as the NP begins practicing independently or in collaboration with a physician.
Physician’s assistants (PAs) also examine, diagnose and treat patients. They interpret lab results, perform suturing, set broken bones and chart records. PAs hold a master’s degree, the scope of which includes some training in a clinical setting. PAs may perform more managerial and supervisory duties than a NP would perform. A PA always assists a physician, while a NP may have more autonomy.
Minnesota: Nurse Practitioners at-a-glance
Number of NPs: 3,274
NPs per 100,000 populations: 61
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: Minnesota Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science Nursing to become a NP?
Yes. You must pass an advanced nursing course of study to become a Minnesota nurse practitioner.
Are there other requirements?
Yes, you must have current certification from a Board approved national nurse certification organization to practice as a NP in Minnesota.
How much can a Minnesota nurse practitioner earn?
$86,000 per year (Salaries vary based on the employment setting, geographic location, educational background and years of experience).
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision for diagnosis and treatment?
Yes, Minnesota requires that NPs work collaboratively within a health care system that supports consultation and referral services as needed for patient care. The NP and collaborating physician must also practice within the same specialty (eg., Both must practice pediatrics/geriatrics/etc.).
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication?
Yes, the NP must have a written prescribing agreement with the collaborating physician to prescribe medication or therapeutic devices.
Is there some drug classifications NPs cannot prescribed? If so, provide details:
As long as all criteria are met, NPs may prescribe controlled substances within the scope of practice as long as the NP holds a current DEA number from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Minnesota: Nurse Practitioner Outlook
According to the State of Minnesota Taskforce 2012, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports an expected increase of 23.8 percent in the demand for registered nursing jobs between 2009 and 2019. Approximately 2.5 percent of current RNs practice as a NP, meaning the demand for NPs is also expected to rise, as well.
This is due in part to the aging population of current NPs, but much of the demand can be attributed to the lack of health providers–including primary care physicians. An increased supply of NPs would mean a great advantage for Minnesota’s health care patients.
Information found at Health Affairs indicates that reform, to enable NPs the ability to practice with less supervision from physicians, would help primary care provider shortages on a national level — thereby increasing both provider and patient satisfaction.