Becoming a nurse practitioner is an exciting career choice for those interested in working closely with patients and having the ability to treat, diagnosis, and prescribe medication with varying degrees of autonomy, depending on the state. They are critical members of the health care field, offering care in a variety of settings, from urban to rural. To become a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse must return to school to go through a graduate degree program and pass a licensing exam at the conclusion.
Nurse Practitioner vs. Physician Assistant: What’s the Difference?
Those who are interested in getting involved in the medical profession may be interested in pursuing the careers of a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Although some of the responsibilities of the two are similar, the paths to get there are a bit different.
A nurse practitioner begins as a registered nurse with a nursing degree and a nursing license. They will have an average of ten years of experience before they enter the program for an advanced degree. The program will include classroom hours, as well as clinical hours. Some states have requirements about the subject of the master’s degree, so interested applicants should make sure to get all the necessary information. After finishing the program, the applicants must pass a licensing exam.
A physician assistant, on the other hand, does not begin working with any introductory degree. They progress right into their graduate level program, which allows them to specialize in different types of medicine, such as primary care or pediatrics. Once they finish their program, physician assistants go on to take a licensing exam as well.
Once the two career applicants have obtained their licenses, they are both able to treat patients, prescribe medication, and make a diagnosis. They can also work in a variety of environments, from urban hospitals to a rural physician office. There are however subtle difference regarding the degree of autonomy they are allowed as well.
A nurse practitioner will have varying degrees of independence to make their own diagnoses and prescribe medication depending on their state. Some states allow them to make their own decisions without any direct oversight; other states require nurse practitioners to be supervised by a physician.
A physician assistant is allowed to practice in a group that has a physician as the head. In some places, this regulation is stretched, especially in rural areas, where the physician assistant may be in contact with the head physician remotely through the internet and phone.
North Dakota: Nurse Practitioners at a glance
Number of NPs: 475
NPs per 100,000 populations: about 70
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs? North Dakota Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science in Nursing to become a NP? No, but degree must be appropriate to nursing and have a nursing focus
Are there other requirements? Submit a scope of practice statement according to established board guidelines. To be able to prescribe, you must have a minimum of 30 hours of education in pharmacotherapy and an affidavit from a physician who will be collaborating.
How much does a Nurse Practitioner earn in North Dakota? $89,000 (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? No
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication? No
Are there drug classifications that NPs cannot prescribe? They are only able to prescribe controlled substances on Schedule II-V.
North Dakota Nurse Practitioner Outlook
There have recently been a number of debates surrounding the future role of nurse practitioners in lowering the overall national health care costs. As there is a general shortage of primary care physicians, some have suggested that nurse practitioners can help provide care in areas lacking physicians. Some fear that they would not be able to provide as high of quality of care since they do not have as much training as physicians, but studies have not shown the quality of care to suffer.
A North Dakota nurse practitioner receives a decent amount of freedom, as well as an average salary compared to the rest of the nation. The favorable conditions have resulted in a decent number of practitioners per 100,000 people. As the debates continue, it is likely that these numbers continue to rise.